Goff fibbed again?

In trying to diminish his responsibility for leaking the Gwyn SIS report Phil Goff has highlighted a discrepancy between his and Andrew Little’s claims.

Goff fibbed to Radio New Zealand about not lying or he has put his leader Andrew Little in an embarrassing position – actually this is awkward for Little regardless.

This what he said to Radio NZ yesterday:

“I didn’t lie about it, but I didn’t pretend that I didn’t make the comments and I apologised for being in breach of her embargo. I should have honoured it to the letter.”

- Goff off the hook over leak

And this is what Andrew Little was reported as saying in defence of Goff last month:

“He’s given me those assurances, I’m satisfied with that,” he said on Firstline this morning.

“He hasn’t given the report to anybody, he declined media interviews until the report was released at 10am yesterday, so I don’t know where they came from and I’m satisfied they didn’t come from Phil Goff.”

- Goff: SIS report leak ‘perfectly appropriate’

Someone has not been truthful.

Goff had presumably have talked to Little about whether he had leaked or not and will have known that Little defended him. Emphasising now that “I didn’t lie about it, but I didn’t pretend that I didn’t make the comments” highlights the discreoancy between Goff’s and Little’s claims.

Goff has put Andrew Little in a very difficult position here. The time of year might reduce the spotlight but it’s not a good look for a new era for Labour’s caucus under Little’s leadership.

It also makes Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn letting Goff off look weak when he then appears to mislead with impunity.

UPDATE: I posted on this at The Standard and a typical response – they have launched into attacks on me with little attempt to contest the facts.

One thing they’re expert at is drawing attention to things they don’t like.

After a pile of petty dirt it probably won’t be long before they accuse me of disrupting the thread.

UPDATE2: Tracey calls it as it is

When it was confirmed yesterday by goffs apology, i rolled my eyes. Just as I did when I saw he has a SST column. Little needs to do a Key and get Goff to state NOW that he is NOT standing at the next election.

IMO, Little saying nothing yesterday, to my knowledge, leaves open the strong suggestion that Little knew about the leak and it was part of a strategy.

So, PG, I deplore dishonesty in our leaders, and every elected MP imo is supposed to be a leader. It undermines our democracy and the trust people have in our systems.

If I were Little I would have announced yesterday that Mr Goff is gone.

And:

Unless Little intends carrying on the awful tradition of planned leaking that some of our pollies indulge in, this was a chance to put his foot down.

It is unfathomable that Goff didnt know exactly what the media would do, sack him, show you have a genuine standard.

Goff, leaks, lies and sincerity

(Further to Goff apologises, media warned over leak)

Last month details of the Gwyn/SIS report were leaked to media the day before it could legally be publicised. Phil Goff was an obvious suspect but he was cleared by new Labour leader Andrew Little.

“He’s given me those assurances, I’m satisfied with that,” he said on Firstline this morning.

“He hasn’t given the report to anybody, he declined media interviews until the report was released at 10am yesterday, so I don’t know where they came from and I’m satisfied they didn’t come from Phil Goff.”

- Goff: SIS report leak ‘perfectly appropriate’

However it was later revealed that Goff had been the leaker, so either Goff lied to Little or Little lied to media. And Goff was unrepentant.

“What I did was perfectly appropriate, if the journalists decided to run information given to them in confidence then you should raise it with your colleagues,” Goff told Radio New Zealand at the time.

Goff had changed his stance by last week.

Goff signalled in an interview last week, that he had apologised .

“I beat the gun on the embargo. I shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

“I’ve apologised to the inspector-general. The ball is in her court [as to legal action]. I’ll take it on the chin, whatever her decision is. I haven’t tried to lie about it or mislead people on it.

“[I] shouldn’t have done it…I’ll accept any consequences.”

Today Inspector General Cheryl Gwyn said Goff’s leak was no appropriate.

“All witnesses, including Mr Goff, were subject to a confidentiality order of the inspector-general,”  IGIS said in a statement.

“The order was made to ensure fairness and the integrity of the inquiry. The disclosure of the report by Mr Goff was in breach of the order.”

And Goff has ‘unreservedly’ apologised.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has accepted Labour MP Phil Goff’s “unreserved apology” for leaking a Security Intelligence Service report to media.

Mr Goff gave a verbal and written apology and Ms Gwyn says no further action will be taken.

Goff apologises for SIS report leak

And Goff has said:

And I guess my enthusiasm led me to make some more comment than I should have.

That downplays the fact that he breached a confidentiality agreement.

I gave information that was not going to damage anybody.

In his opinion. Is that Goff’s Law of Leak Justification?

Ah what happened in John Key’s office was that that was part of a smear campaign.

So when someone else does it they are smearing, when Goff does it he’s just a bit enthusiastic.

The sincerity of Goff’s apology looks very dubious. First he (or Little) lied about leaking. Then he was unrepentant. Then he “unreservedly apologised”, followed soon afterwards by making excuses and turning it into political point scoring.

Andrew Little has a bit of work to do to reform his caucus.He generally sounds sincere but he will be damaged by association and collaboration with leaks, lies and insincerity like this.

Little shouldn’t be satisfied with what has come from Goff on this both last month and today.

Today Goff has apologised ‘sincerely’ to the

The ‘Dirty Politics’ dead horse versus a positive future

The “Dirty Politics” campaign initiated by Nicky Hager’s book dominated a big chunk of the election campaign but it backfired, probably helping John Key and National win as close to one party power that we’ve seen under MMP.

It political scalp of Judith Collins but an inquiry has since cleared her of any serious misconduct, leaving the way open for her to climb back into cabinet next time there’s an opportunity. And her demotion also probably helped more than hindered National’s campaign.

There are significant problems for those who think it’s worth continuing with the largely failed campaign.

  • There is scant substantive evidence and unlikely to be any more.
  • Outside the activist and media bubbles most people don’t care about it.
  • There’s a significant chance of a legal backlash if the hacker is prosecuted, and if associates prove to be political embarrassments.

‘Dirty Politics’ has already missed most of it’s target and in fact backfired as Tracey Watkins and Vernon Small conclude in One bumpy ride of an election:

THE BIG BACKFIRE Hager and Key’s opponents hoped Dirty Politics would put the skids under National’s campaign. It had the opposite effect, driving up support for Key and ensuring National voters turned out in force. A post-election inquiry linked the former boss of the Security Intelligence Service and central figures in Key’s office to an attempt to discredit Labour MP Phil Goff. Would it have made a difference to the outcome if the inquiry had emerged before the election? Probably not.

What now? ‘Dirty Politics’ failed to produce anywhere near enough damning evidence, and it seems that all shots have been fired from that side of the battle lines.

Re-thrashing a dead horse is not likely to be productive. It’s more likely to be counter-productive for Andrew Little to do any more than pop wee reminders into other more substantive discussions.

A Bryce Edwards headline summarises the dirty hubris – A year of controversies that didn’t matter

Most significant of all was Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics, which produced the biggest scandal of the year and helped bring Collins down. The substance of the book will continue to be discussed for some time. But overall, these controversies seemed to produce something of a scandal fatigue for many New Zealanders. The media covered the debates in detail but for most, these simply weren’t issues that mattered. Perhaps the overload of scandal, controversy and personality politics spooked voters.

And between elections nit’s more likely to turn people off politics rather than turn into a triumph for the left – who are hardly innocent of playing dirty politics either, as seen by many voters .

Edwards predicts a continuation of scandal-mongering.

Get ready for more scandals
The public’s scandal fatigue won’t prevent politicians from attempting to create more controversies. Headline-hungry parties will continue to escalate the strong aggression we have witnessed this year.

So expect more scandalmongering. Some of this will be useful – we do need politicians and the media to uncover abuse of power and faults of politicians. But in the end, quality not quantity might be what the public wants from such controversies – that is, scandals that matter. The lesson from this year is that some controversies were more important than others, and that it takes a lot for a controversy to eclipse what voters are really interested in: improving our everyday lives.

A scandal in left wing activist circles and left wing blogs does not make it an issue the public care about. Even efforts by mainstream media to scoop the ratings with scandals are frequently futile.

Crying wolf over and over again makes it less likely rather than more likely yet another over-hyped scandal will break out of the bolshie bubble.

The events covered by ‘Dirty Politics’ were three years ago. Little and Labour need to be focussed on the next three years. They need to be the party of promise, not a party pissing in history.

Cameron Slater keeps promising he’ll strike back hard. Time will tell whether he has anything substantive and whether anyone outside his fan club will take any notice but it’s possible the police will take some legal action against the hacker (or hackers) and perhaps others complicit in the use of illegally obtained communications data.

If Little is as astute as he has shown signs of being he will keep as much distance from any of this as possible. The chances of him being tainted are higher than of scoring a political hit, and even if ‘Dirty Politics’ pulls a success out of the hat the public are likely to continue to see all parties as complicit in the mud slinging.

One of the biggest problems is that if a scandal comes to light that has sufficient evidence and seriousness to genuinely warrant holding politicians to account it’s impact will be severely diminished if it is seen as ‘just another round of mud slinging’.

The left wing social media campaign to associate only Key and National with ‘Dirty Politics’ looks like continuing. Most see it as disconnected from reality as associating only the All Blacks with ‘Playing Rugby’.

‘Dirty Politics’ is as relevant to the next three years as ‘Vote Positive’ – there could be some flow on effect but it was largely a failed campaign slogan.

How about ‘act Positive’? The left wing activists may find it difficult to change entrenched habits but Little and Labour would win much more support if they launch into the next three year campaign looking like a positive alternative.

And John Key needs to get over his annoyance and arrogance and concentrate on getting his Government on being  positive about making New Zealand a bit better.

Positive politics will do far more for people and the country in the future than pissing in the dark past.

More than a Little risk playing with ‘Dirty Politics’

Andrew Little has taken a strong stand against ‘Dirty Politics’. In general I agree with him that integrity in the Prime Minister’s office is very important. I disagree with him about the extent of the problem, he wants to confine it to Key and his office, I see a wider and more entrenched problem.

I had a debate with Little on Twitter in the weekend about the extent of the problem. He reprimanded me:

Don’t trivialise 6 yr taxpayer-funded op out of PM’s office. Face the truth.

Which fmr PM assisted aligned attack writer 2 make OIA requests, wrote blogs, gave privileged access over 6 yrs?

Stop deflecting enormity of 6 yr taxpayer-funded attack op in PM’s office #facethetruth

I don’t trivialise the black ops involving the Key’s Prime Minister’s office. But I think that confining the ‘Dirty Politics’ campaign to that is wilfully ignoring a much bigger problem that has been entrenched in political tactics for a long time.

Every PM’s office has run taxpayer funded campaigns to try and discredit opponents. It’s a significant part of what some parties and politicians do, and not just National and Key.

I fully support any moves to improve political integrity and behaviour – I’ve campaigned on it for years. The difference between Little and I is that I don’t single out one office and one party.

Little dabbled with the dirtier side of politics last term but seems to have learned from his experience that resulted in a defamation suit against him and Trevor Mallard by Judith Collins. This resulted in a compromise settlement.

Judith Collins defamation case settled

ACC Minister Judith Collins’ defamation action against Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little has been settled following a hearing in the High Court at Auckland today.

Ms Collins initiated the defamation case against the pair after comments they made on Radio New Zealand linking her to the leak of an email from former National Party President Michelle Boag.

The email identified Bronwyn Pullar as the woman at the centre of a massive privacy breach at ACC.

In a statement today following their meeting, the three parliamentarians said they agreed “the leak of the email Ms Boag sent to the minister and forwarded on her instructions as the responsible minister to the chairman and chief executive of ACC raised an issue of serious public concern, and that Messrs Mallard and Little were entitled to question who was responsible for that leak”.

“The parties continue to differ over whether the comments made by Messrs Mallard and Little respectively on Radio NZ implied the minister falsely assured the House that neither she nor her office was responsible for the leak.

“Messrs Mallard and Little have confirmed to Ms Collins that was not their intention and wish to make that clear publicly that in the event such meaning was taken they regret it.”

After that Little kept out of trouble until he contested the leadership.

He is now promoting a high ethical standard and has strongly attacked Key over ‘Dirty Politics. He has wisely not overplayed on this, yet, but in his Adjournment speech he mentioned Whale Oil/Cameron Slater twice, taking aim at text contact between him and John Key.

The other piece of news that I want to release too, because we have had a very interesting time in the last several weeks—we have had releases of text messages between the Prime Minister and Cameron Slater .

But what we have discovered through our very arduous research is that there are some text messages that were not released at the time. We have now found them—we have now found them.

For example, here is one from the night of 14 June at 11.55 p.m. It is from John Key to Cameron Slater and says: “Just putting out Moonbeam . Night, night, Camcam.”

And then we have one from Cameron Slater to John Key on 31 August: “John, can I get some advice again? Girl problems. Judith’s not talking to me any more.”

Then here is one from just a couple of weeks ago: “John, I haven’t heard from you in 2 hours. You OK?”.

There are risks in continuing his holier than thou attacks on Key’s and Slater’s ‘Dirty Politics’.

According to his Twitter profile Clint Smith appears to still be a “Labour policy guy” (ex Green’s “Hey Clint”). He still dabbles in the arts of political attacks:

Key’s texts show him giving succor to slater’s defamatory fantasies, and now he’s republished them.

It’s not usual newspaper policy to reprint unevidenced defamatory conspiracy theories as their main headline, is it?

I presume Little has had a full disclosure from Smith about his blog connections, and anyone else in his office. He risks counter attacks if he criticises Key and Slater too much.

And I hope he has had full disclosure from his newly re-appointed Chief of Staff Matt McCarten, so nothing comes out of the woodwork and catches him out.

Cameron Slater has strongly hinted that McCarten has had some involvement in the hacked data and promises to reveal all and severely embarrass Labour (and others). Slater has failed to live up to some of his hype in the past, but he has sometimes also delivered major hits.

There’s been attempts to distance McCarten from any involvement by claiming he is hopeless using computers so couldn’t possibly have hacked Slater.

Not everyone in the Mafia needs to know how to pour concrete.

A wider campaign only needs one capable hacker. It is publicly known that others were involved with Nicky Hager and his book research (that looked left and attacked right).

Slater also promises to reveal links between bloggers and the hacking, and between bloggers and parties. Time will tell whether there’s any facts to back his hints.

Little may choose to continue his promotion of a narrow ‘Dirty Politics’ hoping to keep that separate from wider dirty politics.

He may know everything he needs to know and won’t be caught out red-handed and red-faced.

But there are signs he has been convinced that the ‘Dirty Politics’ meme can be ring fenced and fought with integrity intact.

There’s more than a Little risk with playing with that.

McCarten retained as Little’s Chief of Staff

It has been confirmed that Matt McCarten has appointed Matt McCarten as his Chief of Staff, continuing on from holding the position under David Cunliffe’s leadership and a post election temporary continuation of that.

Audrey Young reports Labour leader appoints new-but-old chief of staff Matt McCarten

Labour leader Andrew Little has appointed left wing strategist Matt McCarten as his chief of staff.

Mr McCarten was chief of staff for former leader David Cunliffe and was kept on in a temporary basis after Mr Little won the leadership a month ago.

McCarten’s appointment by Cunliffe raised many eyebrows. McCarten had formely been involved in the Alliance Party (with Laila Harre) and had close connections to New Zealand socialists (there’s still a few hopeful reds) and to the Mana Party. And…

Mr McCarten’s appointment in February stunned the Labour caucus because as a founder of the break-away Alliance, he had spent years opposing Labour.

One of his strengths was his supposed campaign ability, but Labour’s campaign was an embarrassing failure. Little mustn’t blame McCarten for this, or he may think enough has been learned to turn things around for Labour.

McCarten also has strong union links, like Little.

Mr McCarten helped to found the militant Unite Union for low paid workers and Mr Little is a former national secretary of the Engineers’ Union.

Some have claimed the reappointment is a condition of union support for Little  for the Labour leadership – the unions helped Little win the contest by a whisker.

There are signs that the Labour caucus is happier, more confident and more united behind Little than they have been since Helen Clark left a vacuum.

This will make McCarten’s job easier, but there are significant risks, which will be touched on in the next post.

Norman and Little versus Key on income inequality

In the last clash of the leaders of the year in Question Time both Russel Norman and Andrew Little quizzed John Key on the OECD report on income inequality.

Norman was first.

[Sitting date: 10 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with the OECD that “when income inequality rises, economic growth falls”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No, it is not that simple, because there are a number of factors that contribute to economic growth.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Prime Minister saying that the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, got it wrong when he said yesterday that “addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I think that that helps. That is one of the reasons why the Government is proud of its record, as defined by the OECD in a table that it put out last night. It showed that between 2007 and 2011, income inequality has actually narrowed under this Government. The great tragedy is that it also put out a report last night that showed that between 1985 and 2005, when a Labour Government was in office for a reasonable period of time, income inequality got worse. Shame on Labour—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Why does the Prime Minister continue to defend a failed right-wing ideology—trickle-down economics, which the OECD has now rejected—when this economic ideology has fuelled the biggest rise in inequality amongst OECD countries and has knocked 10 percentage points off New

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is not right. All I can say is that under a National-led Government, income inequality has actually narrowed, as defined by the OECD, between 2007 and 2011. Interestingly enough, if the member is quoting the OECD as the oracle of all good information when it comes to growth and issues of inequality, maybe he would like to follow this comment from the OECD. It said in 2010 in its report: “A growth-orientated tax reform would improve the design of tax regimes by broadening the base and lowering the tax rates of New Zealand.”

Dr Russel Norman : With regard to tax rates, does the Prime Minister believe that when he cut taxes for the top 10 percent of income earners in the middle of the global financial crisis, in 2010, it reduced inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As Treasury noted at the time and as has proven to be correct, actually, the changes to the tax system that were made by the National-led Government in 2010 were distributionally neutral. Actually, as time has gone on, it has been proven that higher-income taxpayers have paid more as a result of those tax changes. That is because the Government changed the rules around depreciation of rental properties, the bulk of which are owned by better-off New Zealanders, and it is because even though there was an increase in GST, a large amount of nominal GST is, of course, paid by higher-income taxpayers. They were very good tax changes, and that is why New Zealanders voted for them in an overwhelming way and why they rejected the Green Party policies, and delivered what was—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Will he now revisit his policy of keeping benefits low as “an incentive to work” in light of the OECD finding that the resulting inequality is bad for people and bad for the economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government. I am proud of that record, as confirmed by the OECD last night in its report. Secondly, the Government is not keeping benefits low. In fact, this is a Government that has legislated to ensure that there are increases in benefits in line with the CPI. The most important thing we can do for beneficiaries—where possible for the bulk of them; clearly not all of them—is to find them work. That is why a strong economy that delivers job opportunities and lifts people out of the welfare trap into work is one of the most beneficial things we can do for low-income families in New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the finding of the OECD that the increase in inequality in New Zealand, one of the largest increases in the developed world, resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the size of the New Zealand economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I do not accept all elements of the report, but I do say this. It was a report that took place on statistical data between 1985 and 2005. In the period between 1999 and 2005, if my memory serves me correctly, the then Labour Government did that with support in various forms from the Green Party. So I say to Russel Norman that, yes, he should apologise to New Zealanders—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

David Seymour : Would the Prime Minister agree that what the report really found was that growth is driven by the quality of investment in human capital across all income levels; if so, could he share any initiatives that this Government is taking to improve the quality of investment in human capital across lower-income New Zealanders?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, I would, and I would say that the OECD actually made a very interesting point when it said that redistribution policies that are poorly targeted and do not focus on the most effective tools can lead to a waste of resources and general inefficiencies. One of the ways I know to do that when it comes to human capital—

Hon Member : What about charter schools?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —is to make sure they get access to a world-class education. That was the point I was actually going to come to. I myself, with the member, visited Vanguard Military School and saw the great young New Zealanders who are coming out into employment. I must say how proud I was to be part of a Government that is championing those partnership schools that are making a difference to those young New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman : Why can the Prime Minister not see this OECD report as an opportunity to move away from failed trickle-down economics towards a form of economic policy that is both good for people and good for the economy, and has a win-win solution for poor children and for the broader economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If the member wants to talk about failed policies, he should read the Green Party manifesto, as it was so utterly rejected by New Zealanders. I remember that member parading before the cameras a couple of days before the election, telling New Zealanders that the Green Party would be polling a massive number—basically, throwing the Labour Party overboard because the Greens did not want to be part of it, and in the end, they polled 10-odd percent. It was a terrible result. Bad policies are the Green Party’s policies. This Government is delivering for New Zealanders.

The clash of ideologies did little more than give Key a chance to defend and promote his Government.

Little was next.

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with yesterday’s OECD report that “focusing exclusively on growth and assuming that its benefits will automatically trickle down to the different segments of the population may undermine growth in the long run”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): With regard to New Zealand, under this Government that is a hypothetical question. That is because the Government is providing billions and billions of dollars of targeted income and welfare support to the most vulnerable New Zealanders every year. So it is simply incorrect to characterise our economic approach as trickle-down. I would also point out to the member that the data covered the period from 1985 to 2005. I became Prime Minister in 2008. I know he wants to blame me for everything, and he will for the next 3 years, but it is a little bit difficult to blame me for something when I was not even Prime Minister.

Andrew Little : In view of the figures in the report relying on data to 2011, and in light of his previous answer, what specifically does he think was wrong with the OECD’s analysis when it found that economic growth is undermined by inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There are many, many things in the report, but what the report last night showed is that there was a growing income inequality in a period that started with a Labour Government and ended with a Labour Government. That is called a failure of Labour’s policies. Since we have had a National-led Government income inequality is narrowing, and that is because this Government is providing enormous support to those most in need. One great example of that is that under this Government the support that is given to households earning under $60,000 a year—that is, just under half of all households are expected to pay no net income tax at all. The members opposite do not like it, but I will tell you what we do not like—the failure, between that 1985 to 2005 period, of a Labour-led Government.

Andrew Little : Does he accept Statistics New Zealand’s finding that incomes for the top fifth in the year to June 2014—after the date for the OECD report—grew by 14.7 percent, while incomes for the bottom fifth grew by just 2.9 percent, thereby increasing inequality in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The last bit is the assumption of the member and it is simply incorrect.

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I am sorry, but it is simply incorrect. The first point may be correct, but if my memory serves me correctly, and the member is talking about the data series I have seen in the past, that is because it includes returns on investments and other things, and as the member will—

Hon Member : When was it you got your memory back again?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is right—that is right. The member will know that between 2008 and some period, I think, in 2011 or 2012, there was a decrease each year because those returns were negative.

Andrew Little : Does he accept the finding of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that loan-to-value ratio restrictions have led to home purchases by speculators leaping as high as 45 percent, while the number of first-home buyers has fallen, all of which is making inequality in New Zealand worse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I do not accept that as being correct. I will remind the member that it was his party that actually supported loan-to-value ratios in the early days, but that is another issue. Here is the point: loan-to-value ratios were part of the tool box deployed by the Reserve Bank governor. Without that, interest rates would have gone up by at least half a basis point for all New Zealanders, and that would have had a very significant impact on lower-income New Zealanders. Actually, what we know is that economic growth is being delivered at high levels by this Government, and that follows the economic disaster that we inherited from the previous Labour Government.

Andrew Little : Does taking away the rights of low-paid workers to better pay, secure work, and even tea breaks make them economically stronger or weaker compared with their employers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We are not doing that. What we are doing is providing flexibility in the labour markets. Interestingly enough, last week Mr Little was trying to tell New Zealanders that somehow small businesses are now working New Zealanders, and that they would have his support. They would have his support so much that they would not be allowed a 90-day probationary period, they would not be allowed flexibility in their labour markets, and they would have to pay a much higher starting-out wage or a much higher minimum wage. I know why the member is supporting his policies; it is because his caucus did not vote for him, but the unions did.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That answer will not help the order of the House.

Andrew Little : Given the OECD’s finding that increased inequality has made the economy 15.5 percent worse off since 1990, how does he plan to reduce inequality in order to grow the economy faster?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Income inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government, as supported by the OECD. The members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say one OECD report is right and another one is wrong. The only point I would make is simply that the member needs to go away and get his facts right. Under the report where income inequality was widening was under a Labour-led Government. I know it is a disgrace, but that is why they were hammered at the polls—it is because they were a disgrace. [Interruption]

Andrew Little : Save your applause for a decent performance. Why is he so unambitious that he does not want to boost future economic growth for all New Zealanders? Is it because he is still trapped in a 1980s time warp?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am very ambitious for New Zealand and for the growth rate of New Zealand. We are delivering on that growth rate for New Zealand, which is why it was nearly 4 percent this year. I am so ambitious that if I put my leadership up for a vote, I would expect more than four people to vote for me. [Interruption]

Little was gained by either attacks.

That was the last of the leaders’ clashes for the year,

End of year picks

It’s the time of year when politicians seem to start winding down (a couple of weeks before I can) and pundits applaud and award.

Patrick Gower’s Politician of the Year

POLITICIAN OF YEAR: JOHN KEY

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

RUNNER-UP (OPPOSITION POLITICIAN): ANDREW LITTLE

He won the leadership thanks to the Union vote, but hey – who cares? This is about politics, it is about winning. Little used the tool that was available to him and he won the leadership.

RUNNER-UP (BACKBENCHER): KELVIN DAVIS

Kelvin Davis stood up to Kim Dotcom and stopped him. This included annihilating Hone Harawira’s political career in an upset victory in Te Tai Tokerau that few pundits expected.

RUNNER-UP (“POLITICAL NON-POLITICIAN”): A three-way tie

KIM DOTCOM

WHALE OIL

NICKY HAGER

Not sure that Hager deserves that, he failed with his primary aim and it’s yet to be seen whether the gains he achieves outweigh the losses.

Dotcom must be there simply for impact rather than success. But otherwise that looks a reasonable line up.

Duncan Garner’s picks are along similar lines to Gower’s.

WINNERS

1. JOHN KEY

For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.

2. ANDREW LITTLE

Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.

3. KELVIN DAVIS

He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?

4. SUE BRADFORD

She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

LOSERS

1. KIM DOTCOM

Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.

2. HONE HARAWIRA

He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)

That’s a pretty good summary.

Colin James: Labour’s opportunity

Colin James thinks Labour has a ‘new generation’ opportunity:

Labour’s opportunity
That is both the challenge and opportunity for Labour as it rebuilds from its 25.1% party vote. Can it recover the lead in policy thinking and reform that it had in the late 1930s and the late 1980s?

Labour went into the 2014 election still in the long shadow of Helen Clark’s “third-way” modification of market-liberalism (though it did add some substantial modifications reminiscent of the 1940s-70s mixed-economy) and stamped with the Clark-era image as the party representing disparate minorities – gays, feminists, ethnic groups and the disabled – and the poor (and unions) and so not as a party of the majority.

Grant Robertson, a gay and also a former front-row prop, summed up the party’s dislocation from the majority in a Nine-to-Noon Radio New Zealand interview on September 22 when he said Labour had to be “part of the communities we live in”, implying that it wasn’t and isn’t. Many MPs are well-ensconced in their communities, as evidenced in Labour’s 34.1% of the electorate vote (down only 1.1% on 2011).

But the party generally is not a strong, visible presence, especially in the provinces and mortgage-belt suburbs. Its membership is much smaller than National’s and so the networks which tie a party into the public are less pervasive and visible. For most voters Labour appears to speak for others, not them. If Labour is to “swim among the people”, as Mao Zedong put it, it needs multiples of its present membership.

And in policy the party has often (as a British Labour MP, Simon Danczuk put it in a Prospect magazine interview in the wake of a poor by-election result on 9 October) sounded “as if we talk from the head and not from the heart”. Some of Labour’s 2014 policies, for example to control the electricity market or adjust monetary policy, had a “geeky” feel. [Lowe 2014]

New leader Andrew Little brings from his union background a blunt, direct way of speaking which may reconnect lost voters. The commission he has set up under Grant Robertson to refashion economic policy is predicated on a very different notion of “work” from that of the Clark generation. Robertson has international contacts on whom to draw. He understands the need to apply Labour first principles to modern realities.

And at 43 Robertson is of the under-45 generation. His No 2 in economic development is David Clark, 41. His running-mate in the post-election leadership contest was Jacinda Ardern, 34, who might possibly be deputy leader a year from now. With Chris Hipkins, 36, in the crucial education portfolio, and Megan Woods, 41, in environment and climate change, and Carmel Sepuloni, 37, in social development, Labour has a claim to be the party of the “new generation” despite the fact that Little is 49.

That gives Labour the opportunity to present itself as a party focused on aspiration, not problems. It was not in 2014.

From Colin James to the Victoria University post-election conference, 3 December 2014 DRAFT – MAYBE SUBJECT TO ADJUSTMENT

Trans Tasman: Key ‘head and shoulders above rest’

Stuff reports that in it’s annual report Trans Tasman rates John Key ‘head and shoulders above rest’.

Trans Tasman, a political newsletter, has released its annual rankings of MPs and gives Key the top score with 9.5 out of 10 (he scored 9 in 2013), saying that, while problems could lie ahead, 2014 was his year.

“It was a straightforward choice,” it said of its selection. “Key has stood head and shoulders above the rest in the polls, and his party romped home in its third election, the third time in a row it has added extra seats as well.”

Bill English came close, being rated at 9/10.

Only Deputy Prime Minister Bill English came close to Key, scoring 9 out of 10. “The safest pair of hands in the Cabinet,” Trans Tasman said of the finance minister. “There’s nothing he needs to prove and, if he sometimes seems boring, he couldn’t care less.”

Interestingly Andrew Little climbed substantially.

No opposition MP scored more than 7.5 (Annette King and Winston Peters), although new Labour leader Andrew Little climbed from 4.5 in 2013 to 7.

I don’t know if becoming leader influenced this.

Cunliffe was rated a 6 – “History may judge him more kindly than last week’s headlines. Is he New Zealand’s Kevin Rudd?”

Not sure about that. He failed at leadership level.

All of National’s front bench either maintained their rankings or improved, with Education Minister Hekia Parata one of the big risers after a year (moving from a score of 5 in 2013 to 7 this year) in which she managed to escape the furore she attracted over Novopay and Christchurch school closures.

The publication was not so kind to some of the ministers outside Cabinet, with Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew scoring only 3.5, just half a point ahead of Melissa Lee, the lowest-ranked Government MP.

Claudette Hauiti, who quit politics at the election after an expenses scandal, was scored at just 1.

A warning:

Trans Tasman noted that Key was taking chances with his credibility, pointing to his refusal to answer questions about his links with blogger Cameron Slater.

“Key pushed the boundaries with his ‘not in my capacity as PM’ get-out-of-jail card, and he shouldn’t chance his arm like it again. Third-term governments are as much about people management as they are about policy management,” it said. “The question has to be – whether the PM has the staff in place to support him to a fourth term.”

There’s challenges ahead for Key.

THE BEST John Key, National,

Helensville: 9.5 out of 10

“He’s still phenomenally popular, and if he comes through a third term without serious damage a fourth could be within his grasp . . . the question has to be whether the PM has the staff in place to support him to a fourth term.”

Bill English, National, list: 9

“The safest pair of hands in the Cabinet . . . There’s nothing he needs to prove and, if he sometimes seems boring, he couldn’t care less.”

Gerry Brownlee, National, Ilam: 7

“He’s had the toughest, longest job in Cabinet and there’s still a lot of work in progress. Brownlee is rarely recognised for what he’s achieved, and he should be . . . [On airport security] gaffe . . . he should have known better.”

Andrew Little, Labour, list: 7

“Former caucus loner who was everyone’s second choice for leader except the unions . . . No-one is going to die wondering what Andrew Little thinks; he’s a tough-talking union man from way back who isn’t going to compromise his beliefs.”

David Cunliffe, Labour,

New Lynn: 6

“History may judge him more kindly than last week’s headlines. Is he New Zealand’s Kevin Rudd?”

Russel Norman, Greens, list: 7

“After John Key, Norman works the media better than any other party leader.”

Winston Peters, NZ First, list: 7.5

“Does he have the will and the stamina for another three years on the Opposition benches and a campaign in 2017?”

THE ONES TO WATCH? 

Stuart Nash, Labour, Napier (new – unrated)

“Strong campaigner with a big ego . . . Watch for a leadership tilt in the future.”

Simon Bridges, National, Tauranga: 7.5

“Lives by Judith Collins’ credo, it’s better to give than to receive. Unlikely to pull his head in, but he should think about it.”

David Clark, Labour, Dunedin North: 5.5

“A clever MP, sometimes a bit too smart for his own good. Fortunate to be promoted.”

David Parker, Labour, list: 6

“Lost party respect by selling out his leader and vacillating over running for the top job . . . Says he has “no immediate plans” to leave Parliament, but we doubt he’ll be standing again.”

THE INBETWEENERS 

Hekia Parata, National, list: 7

“She’s in the unfortunate position of having every Opposition MP, and maybe some others as well, watching her and waiting for the next catastrophe. They could be disappointed, she’s more careful and is better at managing her strengths and weaknesses.”

Nick Smith, National, Nelson: 7.5

“If boundless enthusiasm and a huge work ethic count, he is best suited for the job [of environment minister] – if he doesn’t upset too many people along the way.”

Murray McCully, National,

East Coast Bays: 7.5

“Ongoing tensions with his ministry and anyone else who crosses him is all managed out of the public domain.”

Nathan Guy, National, Otaki: 5

“Better suited to tramping around in gumboots. He’s a farmer, he talks their language. Deserves a break.”

Chris Hipkins, Labour, Rimutaka: 6

“Failed to fire during the election campaign. Did just enough to avoid the disloyalty tag. Extremely competent Whip and a political beast.”

THE WORST

Craig Foss, National, Tukituki: 3.5

“Novopay was a hospital pass and Foss fumbled it, which is tough but that’s life.”

Judith Collins, National, Papakura: 4.5

“An icon of dirty politics, it is arguable whether she is more dangerous on the back bench than she is in Cabinet. One way or another, she’ll again be a force to be reckoned with. How or when is something Key may worry about.”

Rino Tirikatene, Labour, Te Tai Tonga: 2.5

“Do still waters run deep or are they just still?”

Steffan Browning, Greens, list: 2.5

“[Green] MPs scrambled to assure the nation they weren’t all lunatic fringers after Browning signed the ‘treat Ebola with homoeopathy’ petition. Now he has to prove he isn’t a silly old fool.”

THE RISERS 

Alfred Ngaro, National, list: 6

One of the hardest-working MPs in Parliament. Deserves a ministerial post.”

David Seymour, ACT, Epsom (new MP/unrated)

“Will be good for ACT. Whether anyone listens to what he says or cares about the party’s future is another matter.”

 – The Dominion Post

Good line of questioning in Iraq

Andrew Little was wise to change topic in Question Time and today examined John Key on plans to deploy our Defence Force in Iraq. He made a particularly good point about learning from the ANZACs and the debacle of Gallipoli.

It was simple and effective holding to account and asking pertinent questions.

1. Islamic State Conflict—Government Response

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the “100 years commemoration of Gallipoli” could be “one argument” for a joint ANZAC force to be deployed in the fight against ISIS?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by my full statement on this issue, which reflects that the Government has been talking to Australia about potentially partnering in a training role in Iraq. As I clearly stated when I gave a national security speech last month, the Government will make a decision about whether to take that step on its merits, and there is a lot of work yet to be done on it. What badge someone might wear is very much a secondary issue to that.

Andrew Little : Is he seriously saying that sending our troops to Iraq would be a fitting tribute to our fallen in Gallipoli, when the lesson of Gallipoli is not to sacrifice our troops in poorly justified military adventures?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, what I am saying is that the Government considers the Islamic State regime to be brutal, to be one that presents a domestic, regional, and international risk to New Zealanders, and that the New Zealand Government has considered a wide range of options available to stand up against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and one of those is providing a training force in Iraq.

Andrew Little : Why did New Zealanders have to find out from the Australian media about the plans for our troops to be part of a joint combat force—why did he not just tell us?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, no decision has been made. What did happen was someone in one of the Australian newspapers ran a speculative piece. As I said at the time when I was asked about that, in principle it is a possibility, but it is a long way away from being a probability.

Andrew Little : When was a joint Iraq deployment with Australia first discussed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I do not have that date to hand.

Andrew Little : Given the Iraqi army’s serious issues with ineffectiveness, corruption, sectarianism, and human rights violations—despite over $25 billion worth of American support over the past 10 years—why is a token effort worth risking Kiwi lives?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member may not take the build-up of ISIS seriously, and he may be so shallow in his thinking that he does not recognise the risks that it presents to New Zealanders, but I would strongly suggest that he needs to school up a little bit more and understand how brutal these people are and the risks that they present to New Zealanders.

Andrew Little : In light of his shifting statements and his failure to reveal the plans for an Anzac unit until forced to, why should New Zealanders trust him when he says our troops would not be involved in any combat?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If anyone is making it up, it is Mr Little. There is no plan for an Anzac force at this stage. There has been a very high-level discussion, and if ultimately it goes to that level, then we will come back and talk to the New Zealand public about that. But I have been very clear in my speech I gave on national security that we were looking at a training unit in Iraq, that we looked at potentially doing that with Australia, and that we have deployed military people to scope that exercise out. If the member cannot keep up with my speeches, he should just learn to—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Why can he not simply front up and be straight with New Zealanders about his plans for a deployment of troops to Iraq?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The member needs to learn a new line; otherwise it will all get a bit boring—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Could the Prime Minister just address the question that has been asked.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : When the member learns to read, he will learn how to keep up. That was all in the speech from a few weeks ago.

[Sitting date: 03 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

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