Bill English on dirty politics

There’s a number of tweets reporting comments from Bill English about dirty politics.

Bill English visibly uncomfortable today answering questions allegations, partic those regarding Judith Collins.

English [on Collins giving Simon Pleasants' name to WO]: “That’s a style of politics, it’s not a style I like and I don’t participate in it”.

Bill English says it is not the sort of politics he engages in.

Bill English does not condone attack politics outlined in Nicky Hager’s book but won’t be drawn on whether Judith Collins should face consequences.

It’s not English’s call (in public at least) on the possible fate of another Minister.

It’s good to see someone in National speaking up against dirty politics, albeit seemingly reluctantly.

UPDATE: Radio NZ Report:

English critical of colleague’s behaviour

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English has criticised the behaviour of Justice Minister Judith Collins, as outlined in the book Dirty Politics, saying it is not how he operates.

The Nicky Hager book outlines how Ms Collins passed the name of public servant Simon Pleasants to right-wing blogger Cameron Slater, believing Mr Pleasants had leaked information in 2009 about Mr English double-dipping on his housing allowance.

Mr Pleasants had not leaked any information but was subject to abuse on Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog and also received death threats.

Mr English said today he had nothing to do with it and did not condone blog attacks on public servants.

However, he would not be drawn on whether Ms Collins should be reprimanded.

“The Prime Minister (John Key) has expressed confidence in her. She’s a minister, you know. We’re all answerable for how we deal with things, just like I was over the housing issue,” he said.

“I was publicly answerable for that. It wasn’t a matter of legality or otherwise, it was a matter of judgement, and people make up their minds about it.”

The Prime Minister has also since reprimanded Collins.

National on immigration – no change

On The Nation yesterday Bill English said projected significant increases in net migration were due to less New Zealanders going overseas and more New Zealanders coming back, plus the normal about 50,000 new immigrants, slightly under maximums allowed.

English acknowledged pressure on schools and hospitals from the increase in net migration, but said National  had no plans to tighten the rules.

Lisa Owen: Good morning Mr English. I want to start with immigration. Treasury is predicting that by December net migration will be about 38,000. So that means more growth, more taxes, more people and more skills coming into the country. Do you welcome that?

Bill English: Well the turnaround is a reduction, a sharp reduction in the number of New Zealanders leaving New Zealand. And that’s what gives you the shift in the net figure. The number of people coming in has been pretty steady now for a number of years in New Zealand and that does bring skills that we need, it brings family members for existing migrants. And that number hasn’t altered. In fact most years we don’t quite meet the limits that have been set.

But it has been steadily high-

It has been. It’s around 50,000, 60,000 and it’s been steady for a long time. But look it’s part of a growing economy. It’s a measure of success with the economy that more New Zealanders decide to stay home.

But even you would accept that brings challenges. Just this week you were saying that you were seeing pressure on schools. Tell us about that -

Well we see because people aren’t leaving, there are schools where is there’s roll growth pressure and the Ministry of Education is working on that. There are other challenges. I mean a lot of people have mentioned that it puts a bit more pressure on the housing market and that’s why it’s so important that we continue with our measures to improve the supply of housing as quickly as possible.

Presumably on things like hospitals as well too when you have a growing population?

That’s right. And there’s always been pressure on our hospitals with migrants turning up with people who may or may not qualify for free care. There’s nothing particularly new about that.

But in saying that we have had this steady flow of people coming into the country, what planning have you done to prepare for that?

Well there’s always planning to prepare for it, particularly around government infrastructure, to make sure there are enough hospital beds, that there is growth in school classrooms.

But specifics here, you’ve said that there is pressure on the school roll. So what specific planning have you done in relation to schools? Can we expect more schools? Whereabouts do we need them?

Ah yes. The answer to that is yes. The Ministry of Education has working on that. In any case in our growth population areas there has been pressure on schools for years and they are doing a better job now of getting ahead of that growth. Although the turnaround in the number of new – the reduction in the number of New Zealanders leaving has been fairly sharp and so the Ministry of Education is running pretty hard to keep ahead of it.

So how are you in the short term going to keep pace with that?

Oh just more classrooms. There’s money allocated in the Budget as part of an overall programme for the year to get more classrooms to the schools where the children are turning up.

So do you have a number for how many more schools we might need?

Look I couldn’t give you the number off the top of head. There is an ongoing growth programme and the Ministry of Education and the Government have agreed that rather than wait until growth turns up and there’s a problem, they are trying to get ahead of that. Money is not a constraint to that. Often it’s a simple as finding the land and getting the classrooms to the right schools.

So in light of all of this, do you think it’s time to start considering a cap on immigration?

Well there is a cap on the number of people coming in. What we don’t have rules about is how many are leaving. And in fact we like them staying, it’s a good thing. We don’t regard that as a problem. But it is a challenge for the economy.

To counter that, should we be taking less other people? Fewer other people coming in?

Well in our view we don’t see a strong case for changing that right now. A steady inflow that allows us to get the skills that we need, also bringing close family members for people who are already here, has been a steady successful policy for New Zealand. It’s helped grow our economy.

But if you don’t see a need right now to do that, that leaves the door open to the fact that you can see in the not too distant future, that may be something you have to address?

No we don’t see a case for that because what is happening is less New Zealanders going overseas. That’s a development we welcome.

From Lisa Owen interviews Bill English

Plain English – Labour MPs “lazy and weak”

It may be the words of a competing politician, and it is likely to fall on in denial deaf ears in the Labour caucus, but Bill English doesn’t usually mince his words and there seems to plenty evidence of his accusation that Labour MPs are “lazy and weak” and are failing to support their leader.

John Armstrong points this out in It’s past time for Cunliffe to get Labour moving. He criticises David Cunliffe but also points out that “according to one expert, Cunliffe’s looming problems are not solely his fault.”

They say it takes one to know one. And Bill English sure knows better than anyone else exactly how it feels to be David Cunliffe right now.

Although English’s voice was its usual mixture of dry humour and sarcasm, it had the occasional tinge of sympathy as the Minister of Finance spoke in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, doing what he loves doing – dissecting the Labour Party, diagnosing its various ailments and predicting it will fail to overcome them before voters roll up to the polling booths.

English blamed “lazy and weak” Labour MPs for failing to take the pressure off their leader. He said Shane Jones gaining headlines with regard to his allegations against Countdown had only served to show up the poor performances of his colleagues.

In fact there have also been accusations that Cunliffe is lazy and weak, and there is some proof of that. When that is combined with lazy and weak MPs in his caucus that doesn’t auger well for Labour’s chances in this year’s election.

And worse, Duncan Garner reported on Thursday that some Labour MPs are being deliberately lazy and weak, expecting Cunliffe to lose the election, after which he will be dumped and replaced – see Garner – Labour MPs to lose the election then roll Cunliffe.

Armstrong concludes:

It is something English understands full well. It was from the same uncomfortable but potentially rewarding position that Cunliffe now occupies – Leader of the Opposition – that English led National in 2002 to its worst defeat in the party’s history.

Labour had their own worst ever defeat in the last election under Goff’s leadership. Two leaders later they still have the same MPs with no sign of any significant retirements (except Charles Chauvel who has already resigned in disillusionment).

The Shearer experiment failed miserably – and he was only installed as leader to keep Cunliffe out.

But Cunliffe hung in and when Shearer gave up Cunliffe was installed despite the majority of his fellow MPs opposing him.

If Cunliffe had performed well his colleagues would have been happy with a sniff of power but instead there’s a growing stench. With ongoing mistakes, weak performances in parliament and failing to keep in the spotlight Cunliffe quickly lost their tenuous backing.

There are Labour MPs who are not just lazy and weak, some of them are choosing to shit in their own nest, oblivious to or not caring about the stink.

English and English

Dene Mackenzie (ODT) has suggested a possible coincidence of Bill English resigning from the Clutha-Southland electorate…

English to transfer to list next year

5 November 2013

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English will seek nomination for the National Party list and step down as member of Parliament for Clutha-Southland, which includes the Wakatipu, at the election next year.

…and his brother Connor English resigning as CEO at Federated Farmers.

Conor English resigns as Federated Farmers Chief Executive

“I grew up in a household that talked a lot about the three “P’s” – the Prime Minister, the Pope and the President of Federated Farmers. It has been a great privilege for me to lead this organisation in the capacity of CEO and to serve our fantastic farmers and rural community.

“2014 will be a year of change and excitement for me,” Mr English said.

We can be fairly sure it won’t be trying to go for Pope that is exciting him anyway.

Paddy’s politicians of the year

Patrick Gower makes his political awards.

POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR: Bill English

Key is 52, English is 51 – the prime of their lives in some senses. They are not going to hand over power lightly.
The political reality is that to take down National, the Opposition will have to knock out English too. And that’s what makes Bill English Politician of the Year.

A good call, Bill English has kept a steady hand on Government and on the economy. English works well with and complements John Key.

RUNNER UP (OPPOSITION POLITICIAN): David Cunliffe

Cunliffe went from unwanted backbencher hated by much of his own caucus, to Labour Party leader with a better than even chance of becoming Prime Minister.

Also a fair call. Cunliffe has successfully turned around his political career. Next year he needs to find a way of turning around Labour’s prospects.

RUNNER UP (MINOR PARTY POLITICIAN): Colin Craig

What to say about Colin Craig? Not much, because so much has been said already. But Craig is far and away the Minor Party politician of the year. That’s partly because he’s still standing as the others dropped like flies.

An interesting choice. Craig has finished the year with a flurry of media attention, not all of it positive. The media should be co-winners of this award because they have chosen to promote Craig. His Conservative Party hasn’t lifted in the polls yet.

RUNNER UP (BACKBENCH MP): Louisa Wall

Louisa Wall did what many backbenchers or MPs never do – she changed a law. She got same-sex marriage introduced. Quite an achievement – and it deserves to be saluted.

Well deserved recognition. Wall showed the benefits of working with MPs across all parties and got a far better than expected result with a resounding vote victory. Some of her bitter and twisted colleagues would do better if the followed her positive and constructive example.

GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT: GCSB

GCSB – the only Government department that will listen to you.

That award wasn’t from Paddy, I just heard it quoted on Firstline.

Paid Parental Leave could be extended

Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks had been threatened with a Government veto despite looking like having the numbers to pass with the help of Peter Dunne crucial.

Bill English has previously said that while it was interested in the bill that it wasn’t affordable. There have been claims that English overstated the cost.

NZ Herald reports

The Government appears to have softened its stance on Labour MP Sue Moroney’s members bill to extend paid parental leave to six months.

Ms Moroney said National had approached Labour “after the weight of public opinion convinced them to rethink its threat of using a financial veto to scupper the bill”.

The Government Administration select committee has now delayed its report on the bill until February 28.

English now says “The bill now looks substantially different and may be worth looking at.”

Mr English said the select committee had now done detailed work on it to come up with a version that wouldn’t be vetoed.

“We just haven’t had the opportunity to look at the detail of where they’ve got to.”

Delaying the date at from which the extension would apply was a possible concession that may persuade National to support the bill he said.

“The original bill just cost too much too soon to be acceptable or workable. Costings would be one issue where the Government would want to see where the committee’s got to.”

Changes may relate to timing – it would be difficult for National to keep claiming the bill is unaffordable while they promote their success at improving the economy and Government finances.

National won’t want the bill to prevent them from balancing the books as that has been one of their prime focuses.

But if the timing of the bill taking effect can ensure it is affordable without a deficit then it may get through – especially considering an election is coming up.

I personally think that targeted support of parents during the first six months of a baby’s life should be a priority.

Government must act on Invermay

Plans by AgResearch to create hubs and gut regional research facilities is contrary to advise from within their own organisation. They seem to be hell bent on empire building regardless of expert opinion from within their own organisation, ignoring a risk of serious degradation of agricultural research.

The ODT has obtained leaked documents: AgResearch executive overrules review team

There is anger in the South after leaked documents revealed AgResearch has ignored recommendations to save key parts of the Invermay agricultural research centre in Dunedin.

The documents, obtained yesterday, showed strong opposition to AgResearch’s ”future footprint” restructure proposal from more than 200 staff, including at Invermay.

It also showed AgResearch’s own change management team (CMT), appointed to consider the 245 staff submissions, agreed with many of the concerns.

Its recommendations included that key genomic, animal productivity and deer research scientists should remain at Invermay, rather than being concentrated at Lincoln.

The response from AgResearch’s executive team, contained in a separate leaked reply to the recommendations, was to reject them.

This sounds very shonky.

The ODT also rips into AgResearch in their editorial: AgResearch’s Invermay blunder

AgResearch, in its determination to concentrate research and administration in hubs in Palmerston North and Lincoln, is making a mistake.

From a purely parochial Otago point of view, the gutting of Invermay is bad enough. But, as is made clear in leaked documents obtained by this newspaper, AgResearch’s own change management team says it would be much wiser in a scientific sense to concentrate animal programmes at Invermay.

After receiving and analysing hundreds of submissions from staff, the change team came up with several recommendations which differed from AgResearch’s original proposal.

Yet, despite being charged with the task of considering in detail the plans, the group’s recommendations have largely been ignored by its own executive. AgResearch announced to staff this week that the original twin hub proposal stands, almost in its entirety.

The AgResearch executive seems to be at odds with everyone.

After all, as the change management team said about animal productivity, for example, ”location at Lincoln is likely to put capability at risk without yielding significantly greater benefit”.

Perhaps even more telling was the comment ”locations should be determined by science benefits rather than location head counts”. Surely no-one can disagree with that.

Not even the Government and it’s ministers should be able to disagree with that. Time for them to step in. Nathan Guy? Steven Joyce? Bill English? Michael Woodhouse? Jacqui Dean?

Southern action continues on Invermay

The announcement that the Invermay agricultural research centre may be gutted prompted a rising of concern and action in nearby Dunedin and across the south.

It prompted a Stand Up Otago feature and ongoing campaign by the Otago Daily Times.

And prompted a Southern Summit where mayors and leaders from Otago and Southland gathered to discuss actions that could save the south from further depletion of public service jobs and services.

The campaign has cranked up a gear. ODT reports South Enlists Former MPs.

Southern councils have reached across the political divide by recruiting former Dunedin MPs Pete Hodgson and Katherine Rich to the fight to save 85 jobs at Invermay.

Mr Hodgson, the former Dunedin North Labour MP, was the minister responsible for CRIs, including AgResearch, under former prime minister Helen Clark.

Former Dunedin-based National list MP Katherine Rich’s father, Dr Jock Allison, is a former director of Invermay.

Both former MPs were yesterday named as members of the working party finalising a counterproposal for Invermay, to be presented to the AgResearch board and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce.

Good to see them stepping up to join the fight. And southern local government leaders are to meet Bill English.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday said initial talks had been held with AgResearch representatives, and a four-strong delegation of southern councils would meet Clutha-Southland MP Bill English in Balclutha on Friday.

That delegation would feature Mr Cull, Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead, Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan.

The working party would make a final proposal to the AgResearch board late next month, and after that to Steven Joyce.

The counterproposal would be based on input from more than 50 delegates from organisations across the lower South Island, gathered at a summit held in Dunedin earlier this month.

The meeting was called after AgResearch unveiled a proposal to shift 85 jobs from the Invermay agricultural research centre to either Lincoln or Palmerston North by 2016.

Mr Cull said the counterproposal being prepared would show AgResearch’s plan was ”strategically damaging both to the region and the national economy”.

”Many see Invermay as integral to Dunedin’s economic development strategy, and its loss would have a major impact on the wider regional economy.

”If they take away the sort of infrastructure and services offered by Invermay, they erode our research and economic base and we have nothing to build on.”

Keep up the good work.

 

Dunne: “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed”?

Should Peter Dunne tell the GCSB Bill to get stuffed? Many would understand if he did, he’s been dealt with appallingly by the Henry inquiry and some of the coverage of the fallout with unfounded implications of his guilt.

And the questioning of his integrity continues. On The Nation yesterday (repeated this morning at 8.00 am) Steven Joyce said he believed David Henry over Dunne, despite many doubts being raised about the changing stories from the Henry inquiry and the Parliamentary Service.

So it wouldn’t be surprising for a politician in Dunne’s position to retaliate by saying “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed!”

Except it would be surprising for Dunne, who views the Henry inquiry data debacle as a separate issue to the GCSB bill, so it should be dealt with separately, each case on it’s merits.

Some don’t understand this approach to politics, where horse trading and tit for tat spats are seen as the norm. But Dunne isn’t a typical politician, he has a long established reputation as reliable, trustworthy and sticking to his word.

Sure, pragmatic compromises are often necessary in politics. But it’s easier – and better – to deal with these on a case by case basis.

Journalists are used to dealing with all types of politicians, and some seem sceptical of the Dunne approach. Dunne has been asked what sort of deal he’s getting from National for giving their bill his support. I’ve seen this a number of times on Twitter. Yesterday:

John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger
What do you get from National for supporting GCSB Bill?

Peter Dunne ‏@PeterDunneMP
A good policy outcome.

John Drinnan ‏@Zagzigger
Nothing else – any political concessions?

Peter Dunne ‏@PeterDunneMP
The deal was about improving the Bill.

It may be unusual for a politician to be able to separate issues like this, to stick resolutely to negotiated commitments on a bill while at the same time being poorly treated on another issue.

But Dunne is an unusual politician.

At times he is seen by some as unusually boring, until recently plodding along in Parliament with unsexy responsibilities like Minister of Revenue, overseeing the taxing of us, and Associate Minister of Health, where he dealt with unglamorous things like suicide and drug abuse.

Parliament isn’t show business, despite what some politicians seem to think. Winston Peters seems more suited to vaudeville – for the theatrics and the age.

John Key puts on a bit of an act at times, but the media demand more than the mundane from our leaders. That’s one reason why David Shearer is struggling to get favourable coverage.

But the main task for Parliament and politicians is to run the country, to administer the country’s affairs. Most of that is routine stuff. Boring stuff.

Probably one of the most successful current politicians is the dour and boring Bill English, resolutely doing what he can to sort the economy out through a very difficult period of international turbulence.

Key might be good for sound bites, Peters may be good for fiction and theatrics, but next year’s election is most likely to be won or lost on something boring but essential – our economic performance.

While Key is often credited with being single-handedly responsible for maintaining National’s popularity, it is at least as much to do with the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who mostly plods away in the background. And the economy seems to be slowly improving.

Shearer is often blamed for Labour’s poor support – and there’s no denying that he is a part of the problem. But Labour’s lack of credibility on being able to manage the country’s finances is at least as damaging, if not more so. And that is the responsibility of another boring politician, David Parker.

Dunne’s reliability and support of the National led financial recovery deserves credit too, although he probably won’t get much for his efforts there. Good politics is more often than not ignored by a media moving more towards entertainment.

If Dunne said “the GCSB Bill can get stuffed!” he would get a lot of media coverage. If he said “you’ve crapped on me, you can stick your bill where….” then he would probably be top billing for a news cycle or two.

But we and the country would be left with an ambiguous law that would (as currently deemed) not allow the GCSB to assist the Police and SIS in trying to protect the country from terrorism and other security vulnerabilities.

So Dunne, while separately seeking redress for the political travesties surrounding the Henry inquiry, is sticking to doing what he thinks is best on the GCSB bill.

Some disagree with his stance. Fair enough, there is always disagreement with politicians and political decisions. It’s difficult enough pleasing some of the people some of then time.

But Dunne is sticking to what he thinks is the best way to deal with a contentious issue.

And – despite drastic consequences that many people are claiming – in a few months the GCSB will have probably slipped back into it’s boring role as a silent agent of security, doing much the same as it has done for decades, albeit with new technology.

The Dotcom debacle was a balls-up – that’s been admitted. But it was an isolated case. The vast majority of New Zealanders will never be affected by what the GCSB does. Unless they secretly prevent a potential major security threat. Which we may never find out about.

And next year’s election will mostly be won or lost by Bill English and David Parker, while the media frenzy focusses on Key and Shearer  (if he survives).

And in the meantime Dunne will be attacked and cajoled over whatever bills come before Parliament  that require his (effective) casting vote. He will have moved on to being called a traitor for something else. Asset sales. GCSB.

Psychoactive Substances Bill. Game Animal Council. Flexi-super. Boring politics. Effective politics. That’s the Dunne deal.

The drama merchants can get stuffed.

 

Blog exclusive – Bill English on drought

This is an exclusive for YourNZ – about the media links in a minor story.

TVNZ Q + A:

On Q+A this Sunday, NZ’s in the midst of a drought so how will it affect you and me and our pockets? We speak to the Finance Minister Bill English, and a climate scientist who says we have to no option but to adapt.

(story not yet online)

Stuff (Fairfax):

Finance Minister Bill English says the costs of the drought are headed toward $2 billion.

English said the Government was getting updated advice over the next few weeks from Treasury but the latest estimates indicated ”somewhere between one and two billion will be knocked off our national income”.

English told TVNZ’s Q+A the drought had potential to knock 30 per cent off New Zealand’s growth rate in a year.

NZ Herald:

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Bill English is now saying the estimated cost of the drought has gone up from $1 billion to $2 billion, Fairfax Media reports.

Newstalk ZB chief political reporter in Twitter:

@felixmarwick

just seen a Herald story referencing Bill English comments from a Fairfax story about comments the Minister made on @NZQandA #convoluted

YourNZ: The final convolution?

I watched Bill English on Q + A so didn’t need to read the Fairfax report on that, or the Herald report on that,so knew the story.

But when Felix  Marwick commented on the convolutions I responded “Sounds interesting, I must blog on your tweet on it.”

Felix replied “why? it’s hardly earth shattering. Just a bit quirky”

So here’s a bit more quirk to the convolutions. Exclusive to Your NZ.

TVNZ HAve the English interview online now:

Corin Dann interviews Bill English (13:05)

Political editor Corin Dann interviews the finance minister Bill English about the drought, the Budget

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