A positive alternative to panda bashing

NZ Herald has come out in support of John Key and Wellington’s investigation into acquiring pandas.

Key’s critics miss point – pandas will be for all

The Wellington City Council is assessing the business case for joining Adelaide as the only Southern Hemisphere city with the animals. As the Minister of Tourism, John Key has an obvious interest in this. If Wellington Zoo could replicate Adelaide, where visitor numbers shot up after the pandas arrived, there are clear benefits for the city and the country.

Mr Key was, therefore, hardly out of order in suggesting the Government could help Wellington with the cost, but “it wouldn’t be a lot”. This would be no different from the Australian Government’s financial support to Adelaide for the care of its pandas.

That sounds reasonable – if a business case can be made for getting a pair of pandas then why not? It could benefit Wellington and the country.

The Government’s only other input was to have Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee deliver a proposal to bring the animals to Wellington during a visit to a panda breeding centre in Chengdu.

Criticism of this was a petty beat up. Discussing the possibility of pandas with China is good for our relations with them. If they lease us some pandas it will be good for diplomacy between the two countries.

The Prime Minister’s pursuit of a new national flag has created a rod for his own back. Now, every time he tries to advance something that does not address one of the country’s more pressing problems, he is harangued.

Key was always harangued by some. It just happens that ‘it’s a wasteful diversion doing that until all the bad stuff is fixed and everything else is perfect brigade is a diss that’s in fashion.

This week, it was the United Future leader, Peter Dunne, questioning his priorities over the prospect of pandas residing at the Wellington Zoo.

(Brownlee) was labelled a “panda pimp” by Labour leader Andrew Little, whose judgement was as errant as that of Mr Dunne.

Little has become a repetitive and petty piss-on-Key pimp.

And if Little ever becomes Prime Minister he might have his work cut out for him getting on with one of out biggest trading partners. He currently comes across as anti-anything to do with China.

Quite a bit of the media seemed to be in instant-anti mode too, something some journalists seem to be making a habit of.

For example Brian Rudman – Don’t waste takahe’s cash on panda porn

Panda porn keeps popping up on the television.

If we’ve got extra money to spend on conservation, it should be going towards the kakapo, the takahe, even the kiwi, which is disappearing at around 2 per cent a year. On average, 27 kiwis are killed by predators each week. Then there are plants such as the kauri, plagued by an incurable, die-back disease.

If the government wants to fund conservation work via the zoos we have our own urgent priorities.

But the Herald editorial has a more positive view:

Pandas would be a considerable tourist attraction, and all New Zealanders would be delighted to have them. It is quite reasonable for the Government to take an interest.

There’s nothing wrong with the Government taking an interest. If the business case for pandas doesn’t stack up then don’t get them. But if it looks good for tourism and for New Zealand-China relations then why not get pandas?

Sensible reaction from Little on Tolley/contraception

While there has been a lot of silly over-reaction to Anne Tolley’s comments on contraception on Q & A (for example see Why did Tolley talk about contraception?) there has been a sensible reaction from Andrew Little, saying more access to contraception is a good thing and he doesn’t think Tolley would take it further.

A report by Newstalk ZB detailed Concerns over CYFS’ contraceptive tough line and first quoted critics:

Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie said it feeds into an undercurrent of thought that has dangerous consequences.

“In the last few years I’ve been disturbed at the number of people who are just going on quite an aggressive position of saying these people shouldn’t be allowed to have children and they are seeing people in these situations as less than human.”


Massey University’s Deborah Russell said if the state was to tell mothers how many children they can have – its control over our personal bodies – which is the definition of slavery.

She thinks we can’t control when people can or cannot have children, because no one has the right to make that judgement.

Russell was Labour candidate for Rangitikei, she was the party’s first selection for the 2014 election. She was 33 on their list.

But a sensible reaction from Little:

Labour leader Andrew Little said more access to contraception is a good thing, and he doesn’t see the rest of the minister’s remarks as meaning the Government plans to take the scheme any further.

“My own personal assessment of Anne Tolley is that she would be uncomfortable with that level of intervention.”

Tolley was asked about preventing at risk parents of having more babies and gave a careful and moderate response – see the transcript: Why did Tolley talk about contraception?

Labour – co-deputies?

Labour leadership is in the news again with 3 News  releasing the results of a Reid Research poll on deputy leadership.

  • Jacinda Ardern 33%
  • Annette King 25%
  • Don’t know/don’t care 28%

King was appointed deputy to Andrew Little last November but only for a year:

Annette King new Labour deputy

Mrs King, who was deputy to Phil Goff from 2008 to 2011, will hold the job for a year before stepping aside.

There’s been suggestions recently that King is reconsidering and may want to stay on as deputy.

King is a very experienced asset to Labour. She is respected by a better performing caucus. But she has been around since 1984 and Labour need to be seen to be renewing. And King and Little are both Wellington based.

If King steps aside then Ardern is a logical choice for deputy, giving balance as  young Auckland woman MP with obvious appeal to the public.

King has actually been mentoring Ardern.

If Ardern is appointed to the deputy role it would mean that both Labour’s leaders are list MPs. There are pros and cons with that.

She’s relatively inexperienced, especially in a leadership role, but the way to develop that is to practice it.

There may be a good case for having co-deputy leaders, putting the experience of King alongside the youth of Ardern.

Little’s legacy the retention of the Union Jack?

Josie Pagani made an interesting point in a RadioLive interview with Duncan garner about Labour’s and Andrew Little’s stance on opposing everything about the flag change despite it being contrary to party policy.

Patrick Gower had just talked about it being Key’s legacy policy followed by Garner suggesting yesterday Key almost seemed to be conceding on flag change..

Yeah he’ll be worried about cause you’re right Paddy, this is his legacy policy, and he can’t just be stuck with his war on weeds or his cycle pathway, you know he’s gotta have something a bit more iconic so he’ll be really worried.

Key’s known little for those things and far more for other achievements but that’s a side issue.

Personally I think he’s made a really good case for the change in the flag, and I think it’s a shame that the politics, the sort of gotcha politics between Labour and the Nats has sort of got in the way of this.

And Labour will be worried too, cause they don’t want their biggest achievement in Opposition to be preserving the Union Jack.

Both Garner and Gower agreed that that was a really good point.

If Labour succeed in helping retain the current flag it may be a long time before they can credibly try carry out their own policy to change the flag.

Same seven questions

More accurately, same six questions from the Labour and Green MPs in Parliament today to John Key, plus a nearly same question from NZ First who apparently mucked up the co-ordinated approach.

[Sitting date: 22 September 2015. Volume:709;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I particularly stand by the statement I made when that member became the leader of the Labour Party, when I said: “Gosh, if they keep changing Labour leaders at this rate—”

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I can sense by looking at the questions that this question time is going to be quite different to others. I will still do my best to maintain a level of decorum from all members, and if that requires me to ask members to leave the Chamber, I will not hesitate to do so.

2. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement when I said I am amazed New Zealand First did not get the memo that Labour and the Greens got.

4. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially that one when I said: “Man, he really does sound like a broken record.”

5. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost 7 years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made where I said that at least he read it out better than Andrew Little.

7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made that if I were Annette King, I would be ashamed of the fact that I did not fund Herceptin when I was Minister of Health. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

9. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost 7 years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the one I just made, which was that it is nice to hear the question read out in a baritone.

The journalist feedback seemed to generally be that this was a wasted exercise from the Opposition, giving Key ammunition for free shots, except for Jacinda Ardern who followed the leaders and other MPs with an effective exchange.

11. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made that when Jacinda Ardern becomes the leader, the cool thing is that I will have faced more Labour leaders than Australian Prime Ministers.

Jacinda Ardern : Does he stand by his statement that “A small majority of New Zealanders will say that they will change the flag.”, when the latest poll shows that after seeing his options, almost 70 percent have rejected change?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, and what is rapidly emerging after 7 years of being Prime Minister is not only do I have to run the policies that the Government has, I now have to try to implement the policies that the Opposition has as well.

Jacinda Ardern : Is his claim that the polls are not granular enough the reason he has started his own poll by asking every audience at every speech he gives whether they want the flag to change, including at a cancer fund-raiser; if so, is this granular, scientific, or—most important—is it appropriate?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All of the above.

Mr SPEAKER : The answer was not heard. Could the Prime Minister—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All of the above.

Jacinda Ardern : Are the rumours true that his chief of staff is trying to get him to stop doing straw polls on the flag in every single speech, because his audiences are angry at having to waste their time on his pet project?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Far from that being correct, I think record numbers of people are turning up.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Both front benches, again, are interjecting and carrying on a conversation. If they wish to do so, I invite them to go out to the lobbies.

Jacinda Ardern : When he claimed on Radio New Zealand National that “I haven’t had an audience yet where more than 50 percent wanted to keep the flag.”, was that a reference to a straw poll of his National caucus?

Mr SPEAKER : The right honourable Prime Minister, in as far as there is ministerial responsibility.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, but I will tell you what I have not done, and that is come to Parliament and claim I am opposed to changing the flag but go down on to the forecourt waving “Red Peak”. This is a Labour Opposition that has a policy that it wants to change the flag. Now, all of a sudden, those members do not want to do it. The only single question is, how long will it be before they change the leader?

Hon Gerry Brownlee : Has he made any statements about the helpfulness, or otherwise, of the coordinated approach to question time from the Labour Party and the Green Party today?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, there is no ministerial responsibility.

Key rules out Peters power sharing as PM

In his weekly media conference John Key ruled out considering Winston Peters in any sort of joining Prime Minister arrangement in a coalition government.

Some of the media have been going gaga again over Peters potentially holding the balance of power based on poll results two years before the next election.While Winston as power broker probably attracts some support for NZ First it is as likely to limit support for fear of Peters holding National and Labour to ransom.

From the media conference:

Journalist: If New Zealand First hold the balance of power could you ever see a situation where Winston Peters could be Prime Minister under a job share agreement with the National party?

John Key: More chance of me holidaying on the lunar space station I would have thought. I mean just no chance.

Look, there’s just no way we are going to be having some sort of job sharing agreement with frankly a party that’s not even first, second, third, fourth in the New Zealand Parliament.

NZ First are fourth. Peters has stated aims of growing NZ First’s share of the vote substantially but polls currently show no sign of that happening.

I mean it’s just not going to happen. It would be totally unacceptable to the New Zealand public. Being Prime Minister is not something that gets traded away with a bit coalition partner just to get them over the line.

Journalist: It is fourth isn’t it?

Key: Well, ok. Who knows what it will be like in 2017.

Journalist: Would you have him in your Cabinet?

Key: Well they are different issues. We go through, we haven’t historically, ever had to form a government that’s had a formal coalition around the table since I’ve been Prime Minister. We’ve had confidence and supply agreements.

So we take every situation like that case by case. But we’re not going into some job sharing agreement, you know we’re not frankly some third world country that trades away because somebody wants to be Prime Minister that right.

I mean it just doesn’t, I don’t even know how it would work. What would you have, month about? He could take the weekends, give me the chance to have the time off.

But you know outside of that you know I don’t [hard to decipher] it’s a joke.

This arose out of an interview with Peters on The Nation:

…Mr Peters would not rule out seeking a power-sharing role as Prime Minister.

He refused to answer a direct question, saying such questions were immaterial unless the party got the kind of support it needed in 2017.

However, he pointed out there was precedent of the leader of the second biggest party in a coalition becoming Prime Minister – George Forbes in 1932.

Forbes was actually Prime Minister for 28 May 1930 to 6 December 1935.

Andrew Little has also ruled it out. NZ herald reports in John Key rubbishes idea of Winston Peters as PM:

Labour leader Andrew Little has also said any place for Mr Peters in a future Labour-led Government would depend on his support levels, but would not include the position of Prime Minister.

Peters is currently in England with the Parliamentary rugby team but there has been some interesting responses from other NZ First MPs.

Ms Martin said she disagreed with Mr Little making that call now.

“He doesn’t know who he has got to deal with [after the 2017 election]. It is a silly thing to do, in my view, it is silly to rule things in and out before the vote has taken place. You don’t know what your position is.

It isn’t silly at all. Voters want to have an idea what the parties might do if they get the chance to negotiate power sharing after any election.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin said the prospect of him asking for any position, including the top job, had never been discussed within the party.

“I think he is perfectly capable of being a Prime Minister. And I think that if the job came up and he was the guy to fill it, then I think he would do a fantastic job,” Ms Martin said.

“But the reality is, those are conversations to have after an election, not now. We just don’t discuss it.”

I don’t believe her. NZ First MPs and party members must discuss their aims and their possible power sharing preferences post election. And what position Peters and others are interested in.

Her response is just not credible.

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark said opponents of the party were keen to play up the suggestion that Mr Peters could want to be Prime Minister.

“It is just mischief making. NZ First will do what we have to do, we will fight the good cause, we will fight for our party’s philosophies and principles all the way through.

“We will negotiate in the best interests of New Zealand, and that’s all I will say on that.”

He seems to have omitted a word.

“We will negotiate in the best interests of New Zealand First…” is surely what they would do. Any party would do the same. Claiming it is in the best interests of the country – especially if the party has 5-10% of the vote – is nonsense.

Peters and NZ First refuse to state before an election what they might negotiate on post election, so voters have no way of knowing what they might do. So NZ First doesn’t seek a mandate to do anything apart from whatever they think is in their own interests.

Too late to swap Red Peak

Yesterday the ACT Party said that 21 September was the latest that Red Peak could be swapped with another of the final four flag designs. From their Free Press weekly newsletter:

Last Day for Red Peak
Free Press has campaigned for Red Peak to be included in the ballot.  With 69 per cent of New Zealanders opposed to change upon seeing the options, the Prime Minister’s project needs a circuit breaker.  The legislation says the final four flags must be identified 60 days before the referendum period begins, and it’s supposed to start on November 20.  The PM should sub one of the options that’s created zero enthusiasm off, and sub Red Peak on.

It wasn’t done yesterday so that option has now run out of time.

Stuff has more details in Red Peak stalemate continues as deadline looms over its inclusion in flag referendum.

The only way the design could be added as a fifth option is by a legislative change, but that would not be required if the Government decided it wanted to swap it out for one of the current finalists.

A spokesman from Deputy Prime Minister Bill English’s office said that appeared to be in line with the August 31 “order in council” establishing the referendum on the four finalists.

It’s understood that applied to any move to swap one of the four flags out for a different option. But it was still unclear whether or not there was time for new legislation to add a fifth design.

But it seems clear that neither John Key nor Andrew Little are going to reach an agreement to put through legislation that would allow Red Peak to be added.

Key has said he would consider it if Labour backed a law change to allow it, without using the opportunity to attempt to change the referendum process.

Labour leader Andrew Little has said his caucus would support Red Peak being included, either as a replacement or an extra option, as long as there was a yes/no vote in the first referendum.

On Monday, Key told media he did not buy Little’s later assertions that he would be willing to discuss the design “in good faith and without pre-conditions”.

Despite Little previously supporting flag change and despite flag change being Labour Party policy Little and Labour have opposed and tried to sabotage this flag change process, citing amongst other things that it is a Key ‘vanity project’.

Labour reacted quickly and poorly to Key’s offer to possibly consider legislation, demanding much more extensive change to the referendum process as well. In response Key said he would only consider adding Red Peak without any other changes, resulting in a stalemate.

“But if you take a step back … I actually think the process has been a good one. We’ve done it on a very cross-party basis, we’ve sought the very best advice we can, and it’s been an extremely thorough process.

“We’ve accepted that advice and it’s really not negotiable,” Key said.

If the Opposition introduced a proposed amendment to a new bill, Key said he was confident the Government would not lose a vote on it (the bill).

But he was still not prepared to run a new bill through the house.

This bill was opposed so did not proceed. It was noted that the flag bill was not included in the Members’ ballot later in the week.

“The question isn’t about winning it, the question is [that] we have had a process and that process is to accept what the flag committee recommended to Cabinet.”We’re quite comfortable with that process. If other political parties felt really strongly about change – i.e. adding another flag, or proposing to drop one of the other flags to stop the need for legislation, as I said last week, we were genuinely open to that.

“But it required them to actually play ball and be reasonable and supportive of the process. I think that’s where that’s falling down.”

So it looks like we have passed Red Peak. Even the twitterrati seems to have moved on to other things, #RedPeak appeared to fizzle out about a week ago.

Peters coy on PM dream, Labour say no

On The Nation on Saturday Winston Peters refused to rule out ambitions of a power sharing coalition agreement that would give him at least part of a term as Prime Minister. He even went as far as saying there was a precedent for a smaller party leader being Prime Minister – in 1932.

Interview: NZ First Leader Winston Peters

Winston Peters says there’s a precedent in NZ for the prime minister to come from the second biggest party in parliament.

On that scenario, do you think you could be prime minister?
Well, you don’t predicate your future – if you want to have a future in politics – on what you want.
But in the scenario where you were the smaller party, perhaps, in a government in some form, does the prime minister have to come from the biggest party?
You know, in 1932 the prime minister came from the second biggest party in the coalition. That’s why Forbes became the prime minister of this country.
So the prime minister could again come from the second biggest party?
I’m saying there is a precedent, yes. I’m just reminding people of the history. And that was before MMP.
So is that something you’d like to do?
I’ll tell you what everyone in New Zealand First is focused on – me, my caucus, everyone in the whole team – and that is to massively grow our vote by using new systems and the best technology possible in 2017.
You’re entitled to do that.
And we worry about that the day after the election.
But do you want to be prime minister one day?
You don’t get my point. In a long career, when have I ever run for that sort of position? Not once. I’ve seen all sorts of people with high ambitions, most falling by the wayside, most never making it, and I don’t want to be one of those.
What about some sort of agreement where you shared being prime minister? Say it was a National government; say it was a Labour-led government. Would you share being prime minister?
I’m not going to be answering those questions, because it’s immaterial unless we get the kind of sign-up and support that we are seeking in 2017.
But it sounds to me like if you do, you would do that. You would share that role of prime minister.
Given that I haven’t answered your question, how does anything sound to you in that context? I’m not being evasive. In a long time of MMP, for the last 22 years, I’ve told you journalists year after year every election year that we are going to decide when the people have spoken. And I keep on getting the kick-back from the media saying, ‘You’ve got to decide now.’ No. The people must decide first. It’s called democracy.
Yes. And I’m asking you one last time to rule out wanting to share the role of prime minister one day.
That’s a very adroit way of asking the same question. And as I said at the beginning, the people will decide the numbers we have in 2017, and everything’s academic until that happens.
So you won’t rule it out. Winston Peters, thank you very much for your time.

But the reality is that NZ First are currently 7.9% (3 News) and 5.5% (Roy Morgan) in recent polls. Unless they improve significantly by 2017 and pass the Greens in support it looks like a futile dream.

And Andrew Little sort of rules out power sharing with Peters.

Little shuns job-share idea

Labour leader Andrew Little is only just in front of NZ First leader Winston Peters in the preferred Prime Minister stakes but says he will not entertain the suggestion of sharing the top job if Mr Peters holds the balance of power.

Yesterday Mr Little said any place for Mr Peters in a future Labour-led government would depend on his support levels but the Prime Minister’s role was not up for grabs. “I don’t think New Zealand is ready to accept a state of musical chairs in the role of Prime Minister.”

NZ First are currently polling at about a quarter of Labour’s support.

And as support levels look at the moment a Labour+Greens+NZ First coalition with Winston Peters as potential Prime Minister will struggle to impress many voters.

I think there’s no way National would entertain the idea of giving Peters a spin at PM in a coalition.

Peters is unlikely to be up front about his ambitions before the election but failing to rule it out will ensure it will still be a factor in voters making election decisions in 2017.

Something slowly changing for Labour?

Tracey Watkins writes at Stuff: As Britian’s Labour Party implodes, Andrew Little’s Labour rebuilds. She writes off UK Labour under Corbyn but sees some hope for Andrew Little and Labour here.

Something is slowly changing, however. The polls don’t show it. The headlines don’t give much indication of it.  And the Government may not even realise it yet. But Labour leader Andrew Little and his MPs are starting to get traction on the issues that will decide the next election.

The most visible sign is the debating chamber….the Opposition barbs are starting to penetrate. In Corrections, Health, Tertiary Education and elsewhere, ministers are being tripped up by their Labour counterpart.

Apart from the odd stumble, meanwhile, Little has been more sure footed, and certainly a more unifying force than any of his recent predecessors. He is no firebrand like Corbyn. But that may be his secret weapon.

So far none of that has added up to a tipping point, or even a groundswell mood for change. But it no longer seems impossible that such a day might come before National cruises to another term.

Has the foundation been made for a serious contest in 2017?

Labour at least look better than under Goff, Shearer and Cunliffe, although that’s not a high bar.

Little and Labour have a lot of work to do and a lot to prove yet but they have two years to rise. And National have two years to stuff things up and lose the election.

Do we need a Plan B?

Do we need a Plan B for the New Zealand economy?

Andrew Little versus Bill English last week:

[Sitting date: 08 September 2015. Volume:708;Page:6295. Text is subject to correction.]

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Why did he say “Plan A is a good plan” given the state of regional economies?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister) : He said “Plan A is a good plan” because plan A is a good plan. It enables regions to be resilient to shifts in global prices. The Government is supporting regions in a number of ways, including water reform and Resource Management Act reform, recognising that most regional economies are resource-based economies, and we are investing in regions through better alignment in training and skills, education, and research and development. Some regions are under pressure from the volatility in dairy prices. The Government is working with those regions—for example, through regional growth studies—to attract more investment, jobs, and growth.

Andrew Little : Given plan A is a failure that has led to higher unemployment, weak growth, and record debt, why is he refusing to consider a new direction?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We do not agree with the member’s description of the future of the New Zealand economy. I know he is among the very few people who want to see the economy crash, because he thinks it might benefit his poor leadership and party standing. But, actually, we have a longer-term view that although this is a softer patch for the economy and a difficult period for some industries, we have longer-term confidence in the New Zealand economy.

Andrew Little : Given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was not heard because of the level of interjection, mainly from my right—[Interruption] Order! I invite the member to repeat the question.

Andrew Little : The question is and was: given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, because plan A is working for New Zealand, much better than Labour’s political strategy is working for Labour.

What would a Plan B be?

Or if we keep chugging away much as we are (National’s Plan A) are we likely to do ok?

As shown in GDP growth up for June quarter after a slowdown in the March quarter to 0.2% GDP growth has improved in the June quarter to a still modest 0.4%.

What would work best, a reactive economic policy approach, or steady as she goes?


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