Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment?

Did Labour have a mad McCarten moment this week when they decided to flock to embrace Jane Kelsey’s anti-trade tirade?

Andrew Litttle has been sort of leading, sort of stumbling down a very risk road on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, until suddenly forking out into far more risky territory, in which some of Labour’s MPs are unfamiliar and look uncomfortable.

In July Little declared five bottom lines that seemed to be signalling a tough line in the sand over the TPPA (to left wing activists) but with plenty of wiggle room (for the Labour and voter centre).

The key phrase was “Labour will not support the TPP if it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty”. ‘Undermine’ could easily be up for interpretation.

Then in November after the TPP agreement was made and the text released Little said that only one bottom line had not been met.

Little said the text of the deal, released late on Thursday, met four of the party’s five bottom lines, but failed on the fifth – the party’s policy to ban foreign buyers of existing residential properties.

The wording of this was “New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers”.

But despite repeated questioning by  the media, Little refused to definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed the 12-nation agreement.

However, he said the party would fight “tooth and nail” against any provision that cut across their policy and cut across the sovereignty of Parliament.

After this at the end of November Little reshuffled his caucus.

He appointed David Shearer, known to be a strong supporter of trade agreements and the TPPA, to be Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

And he appointed David Clark to be Spokesperson for Economic Development (including Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth.

Since then Little repeatedly refused or failed to “definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed” the TPPA. Until this week. He was widely criticised for his lack of clarity, including from the Labour left.

But this week things quickly changed.

On Tuesday Little released TPP analysis confirms sovereignty at stake

“Labour has been behind some of New Zealand’s most successful genuine free trade agreements but this goes far beyond just trade.

“National knows many Kiwis people are opposed to this deal. That is why – despite saying last week they wouldn’t release further details – they have panicked and rushed out this tired old spin,” Andrew Little says.

Implications but no definitive position.

Also on Tuesday Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson joined an MP panel in the first of four anti-TPPa meetings featuring long time opponent of trade agreements, Jane Kelsey. I live blogged some Robertson comments:

“You cannot put a price on our democratic right to create our own law”.

“We cannot undermine our sovereignty”.

“There are people out there who have supported previous agreements who don’t support this one”.

Robertson closes without being clear that Labour will fully oppose the TPPA or not.

Uncertainty about Labour’s stance on the TPPA continued on Wednesday. Audrey Young wrote:

(Key) accused Labour leader Andrew Little of not being able to answer the most basic question he got asked, namely whether he would support it or not.

“He was floundering around on Radio New Zealand this morning like it was the first time anyone had ever asked it,” Mr Key said.

Labour supports the reduction of tariffs but opposes the TPP, claiming that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty in not allowing a future Government to ban house sales to foreigners – which Labour leader Andrew Little says he would ignore.

But Little’s hand was forced with Young on Thursday with: MPs break ranks on TPP:

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also backed the TPP among 12 countries and it was begun under her leadership. Mr Goff was Trade Minister.

Labour has decided to oppose the TPP on the grounds that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty.

This created another confused situation when Little said that Goff was allowed to support the TPPA (and even vote against the party position on it) but that Shearer was bound to support the official caucus position that opposed the agreement and would be censured for speaking out in support of it. See Differing view on TPPA agreed.

Also on Thursday Matthew Hooton tweeted what appeared to be a leaked Labour email:

Please retweet. Internal email shows policy being driven by Jane Kelsey & loony left.

Little’s Head of Staff arranging for Kelsey to brief Labour staff, with MPs free to be invited.  Does Labour’s staff choose what to invite MPs too? Peculiar.

This raises questions about how involved McCarten is in Labour’s shift to oppose trade deals.

Going by posts at The Daily Blog by Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter and John Minto there appears to be a spontaneous rising of the revolutionary left. Or something more planned and coordinated.

Then on Friday Little came out with an attempt at clarification in Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

There can be no trade-off between citizens’ democratic rights and economic interests. We don’t put a price on our democratic system, and it is not for sale.

This marks the TPPA out as being different to any other free trade agreement I know. I do not support the TPPA in this form.

On Friday night the fourth of Kelsey’s meetings was held in Dunedin. Trade spokesperson David Clark attended, looking not entirely comfortable being photographed there – see David Clark on the TPPA.

And Clark also spoke at an anti-TPP event in Dunedin’s Octagon on Saturday. He didn’t look very comfortable there:


David Clark looks as comfortable as a minister at a mosque

Also on Saturday Audrey Young wrote in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

…the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

So why was Clark appointed to a role that is now central to an issue that could make or break Labour’s chances at next year’s election?

Why was Shearer assigned to Foreign Affairs? He along with Phil Goff are Labour’s most internationally experienced MPs. Both of whom support the TPPA, contrary to new Labour policy.

What experience do Little, Robertson and Clark have in international trade and foreign relations?

Why were unions and the Council of Trade Unions sponsoring Kelsey’s strident anti-TPPA speaking tour?

McCarten has close union connections.

Has Little been sucked into a McCarten/Auckland left/Kelsey engineered isolationist attempt at revolution?

A photo from the anti-TPPA event in Dunedin yesterday:


Signs of socialists and revolution

Note also the council chambers in the background – event organiser Jen Olsen said that Dunedin should become the first city to declare itself TPP-free. That’s ironic from a campaign claiming “we will use democracy to protect our democracy” – there’s nor mandate for that.

Little and Labour have now inextricably associated themselves with all of this.

Photo of David Clark at the Dunedin anti-TPP meeting removed as per request/copyright. Link to it here.  It’s also shared on Facebook with: “Currently going Viral on Twitter a little bit of fun I had making my point about Members of Parliament needing to listen” so unusual to see it restricted by copyright.


This is David

David is a Member
of Parliament

David knows that
Kiwis are worried
about the TPPA

David has come to
hear their concerns.

David is Listening.

Be Like David

That’s not the David that has to apologise to the Labour caucus for supporting the TPPA. The other David, and Phil, and a number of other Labour MPs, supporters and voters may be feeling as uncomfortable as this David looks.

Has this been a mad McCarten moment for Labour?

Clark, Curran speak at anti-TPP event

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark and Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran followed up appearances at last night’s anti-TPPA meeting with speeches at a rally in the Octagon today.

The ODT reports: Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’

Up to 250 people have declared the Octagon a Trans Pacific Partnership-free zone at an ”action event” in Dunedin this afternoon.

Event organiser Jen Olsen said Dunedin should follow suit and become the first city to declare itself TPP-free.

I’ve already mentioned in the previous post that unilateral declarations are not very democratic.

The crowd heard from Labour’s Dunedin MPs David Clark and Clare Curran, the first time the pair have spoken publicly since Labour declared itself opposed to the controversial deal after years of uncertainty over where the party stood.

They seem to have decided to back some fairly extreme trade activists. This is a major change for Labour, who were involved in getting the TPPA off the ground.

Dr Clark, who is also Labour’s trade spokesman, said it had been a ”hell of a ride” since he took on the trade portfolio last month.


Labour trade spokesperson David Clark (Facebook)

The party had taken a “principled stance not a populist stance” to the TPP, which breached New Zealand’s sovereignty, he said.

New Zealand relied on trade, but not at any price, he said.

He said the party needed to be careful how its presented its argument over TPP in order to take “middle New Zealand” along with it.

Taking “middle New Zealand” while lurching leftward may be quite a challenge for Labour.

Ms Curran echoed Dr Clark’s sentiments, and reminded the crowd Labour celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.


“We are immensely proud of our history – most of our history,” Ms Curran said.

Their current actions may or may not be viewed with pride.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei received the warmest response from the crowd, especially when she declared the TPP would bring down the National Government.


She said she had been heartened by the anti-TPP speaking tour featuring US trade authority Lori Wallach.

It wasn’t a big crowd but that sounds like it was Greenish rather than the “middle New Zealand” Labour think they might appeal to.

David Clark on the TPPA

Labour’s new trade spokesperson David Clark has been out of sight nationally on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Audrey Young in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

Three guesses who Labour’s trade spokesman is …

…it is in fact Dunedin MP and former reverend David Clark, and has been since last November in Andrew Little’s first-anniversary reshuffle.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

For the next few months, Little himself and Robertson will be de facto trade spokesmen.

It was Robertson who spoke on Labour’s behalf at the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPPA meeting in Auckland on Tuesday.

Fran O’Sullivan in TPP is too important for Little’s partisan political football:

…the real pity of Little’s stance is that it undercuts the intention of his new trade spokesman David Clark to reassert Labour’s decades long role in working either in or out of government with is major opponent in a bipartisan approach on trade.

But Clark appears to have bought into the Kelsey/Robertson/now Little anti-TPPA stance.

In an MP’s View in Dunedin’s The Star weekly Clark echoes Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

Labour for trade but TPP concerns abide

There’s a gathering tomorrow from 7 pm at Burns Hall in Moray Place. I will probably stick my head in. It is about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

That was Jane Kelsey campaigning strongly against the TPP. I was there, and Clark probably did stick his head in.

Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran made herself prominent there too.

Labour, with strong roots in Dunedin, has a long commitment to international trade.

Eighty years ago, the first Labour government was noteworthy in pushing increased trade access and the opportunity to grow international markets.

Generally countries give up barriers to trade only when they believe it makes good sense for them to do so. As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, our country has often led the charge.

Thanks to Helen Clark, Phil Goff and others, New Zealand signed the first free trade agreement with China. We are richer as a country as a result.

Kelsey campaigned against the China FTA and other trade agreements.

Like previous Labour trade spokespeople, I am committed to trade. I don’t want to live without coffee or bananas. If we stopped trading in dairy or tourism, we couldn’t afford to keep our schools and hospitals open. As a country, we need trade for our prosperity.

Clark (or Star editors) has a curious use of commas.

Labour continues to support gains from trade. Because barriers to international  trade are a lot smaller than they use to be, by definition the gains to be made from modern trade agreements are increasingly modest. The Labour Party supports these gains still.

But the Labour Party will oppose moves to undermine our country’s constitutional integrity. Months ago, Andrew Little released a set of bottom lines on the TPP agreement. It has since become clear that Labour’s concern about protecting Kiwi land – expressed in those bottom lines – is not addressed in the final text of the agreement.

Other countries, including Australia, have secured sovereignty protections for home ownership.

Interesting that he calls them “sovereignty protections”. Australians can buy homes in New Zealand – does that threaten our sovereignty?

It turns out New Zealand did not even ask for these protections in the TPP negotiations. Our Government has failed to get the best deal for New Zealanders.

Moreover the actual TPP text requires us to allow non-citizens, including overseas corporates, to have a say on law changes in a number of areas.

As in the China FTA? And other existing agreements supported by Labour?

Future trade agreements negotiated by a Labour government will better protect our sovereign rights.

Labour (now, Greens and NZ First all oppose the TPP agreement. Greens opposed the China FTA and other trade agreements. How could a Labour/Green/NZ First government negotiate a trade agreement in the future?

The government has the numbers to pass TPP-enabling legislation in our Parliament. Despite this Labour will continue to oppose those things that have no place in an agreement that should focus on market access and increased trade.

Clark doesn’t make it clear whether Labour would vote against any TPP related legislation regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed with the specific legislation.

Will Labour (except Phil Goff) vote against every TPP related bill in symbolic opposition to the whole agreement? They don’t get to vote on the agreement as a whole.

Like others around the country, tomorrow’s gathering in Moray Place will send a crisp message to the Government. If you can spare the time I’d enjoy seeing you there.

I don’t think the Government will get much message at all from the fourth in a series of meetings opposing the TPP.

But Clark has sent a crisp message that he is on message for his leader and the majority of the Labour caucus in opposing the TPP.

And he has sent a crisp message to the public that he is in support of the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPP and anti-trade agreement campaign.


Labour’s Trade spokesperson?

Audrey Young asks (and answers) – who is Labour’s trade spokesperson?

Before reading down, does anyone know or can you guess?

Three guesses who Labour’s trade spokesman is …

David Shearer? No, foreign affairs (at least he still was last night).

Grant Robertson? No, finance.

Phil Goff? No, defence.

All three having been talking trade this week, but no.

Three more guesses.

David Parker? No, he was it when David Cunliffe was leader.

Clayton Cosgrove? No, he was it when David Shearer was leader.

Maryan Street? No, she was it when Phil Goff was leader, and is out of Parliament anyway.

Get the picture?

No wonder Labour’s messages have been anything but clear.

While Andrew Little has been leading the unclear messaging it’s not him either.

It is in fact Dunedin MP and former reverend David Clark, and has been since last November in Andrew Little’s first-anniversary reshuffle.

Even in his first term Clark was rated as a fast riser in Labour.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.


Clark is now ranked 9 in Labour’s pecking order.

Dr David Clark

MP for Dunedin North

Spokesperson for Economic Development (including Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth

Associate Health Spokesperson

David is concerned about the growing gap between rich and poor which he sees as limiting our social and economic potential. He believes we can and must achieve a fairer society where everyone has an opportunity to succeed.

Clark’s only media release on Labour’s website this year – Nats must work to support business confidence -doesn’t mention the TPPA. Neither does his only other one since becoming the Trade spokesperson at the end of November last year.

Little will have known that the TPPA would be a big issue when he appointed Clark, but going by his indecisiveness on the TPPA until the last day or two he may not have anticipated how much his future as Labour leader would depend on trade.

Clark spraying Key

Yesterday the ODT had an editorial on Red Flag – Faith in process flagging.

Labour MP David Clark posted a link to this on Facebook:


That’s typical of how Labour seems to see the flag issue, but they have been major contributors to the farce. They have  tried to portray the process as all about Key (‘vanity project’ etc) and have appeared to be deliberately divisive to try and sabotage the process.

But the Facebook thread takes a darker turn.


That’s not an unusual sort of attack on Key on Facebook but is a bit nasty.

But for Clark to endorse it is I think not a good look for an MP.

Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance

David Clark clashed with Steven Joyce clashed in Parliament over hair straighteners.

That’s David Clark:


And Steven Joyce:


Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

He’s right about that, it’s not something either of them would have much experience with.

But Clark was right to point out the extravagance of MBIE spending taxpayer money on:

  • Installation of hair straighteners for staff use
  • $140,747.66 on a public information screen
  • $74,000 on a reception desk
  • $260,000 spent renovating a rooftop sundeck
  • $1,696 spending on a ministerial plaque  – plaques are commonly installed on buildings – but for new buildings. A plaque for a refurbishment seems to be a bit ridiculous.

This is on top of a $40,000 sign. MBIE is an extravagant embarrassment for Joyce.

MBIE – Ministry of Bloody Insulting Extravagance
(a poor example for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment)

[Sitting date: 17 June 2015. Volume:706;Page:9. Text is subject to correction.]

4. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s expenditure of $140,747.66 on a public information screen show it is achieving one of its principal goals of realising efficiency gains over time?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I am disappointed with both the cost of the public information screen and the outside sign, and, as I have said publicly, I have spoken to the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and made clear my disappointment. He has accepted that those two items in their relocation should have cost less, and in future large building projects will have additional oversight. It is important that these two items are seen in the context of savings of $40 million over 20 years by being located in a single head office that come from a 31 percent reduction in office space. It is also important to note that the overall cost of that development came in at $2 million under budget.

Dr David Clark : Does spending $74,000 on a reception desk show good judgment?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member could run through a number of things that he and I could both have an opinion on, but, actually, overall the project has saved very significant sums of money for taxpayers—$40 million over 20 years—and it also came in under budget.

Dr David Clark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very direct and straightforward question, and it was not answered or addressed.

Mr SPEAKER : In my opinion, in listening carefully to the answer, from what I could hear it was addressed. It would help if the member could ask his own colleagues to be a little quieter, and then he might well have heard the answer more clearly as well. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark : I did hear the answer, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Then he will agree that it was addressed.

Dr David Clark : Can he confirm that his name appears on the ministerial plaque described in the release documents as requiring an additional $1,696 spending variation in the contract; if so, is he the Minister responsible to this House for the expenditure referred to in my questions today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It could be helpful to the member to point out that he is failing to make the distinction between policy-related issues, which it is right and proper that the Minister gets involved in, and operational issues, which are the responsibility of the chief executive. We have seen examples in this House of members failing to observe the differences that are appropriate in what could be known as the “Trevor Mallard – Erin Leigh effect”. If Ministers start trying to run the departments for the chief executives, that generally does not work out well.

Dr David Clark : It will be an epitaph, not a plaque. Does spending taxpayer money on the installation of hair straighteners show good judgment—

Hon Steven Joyce : Well, not for you.

Dr David Clark : —well, not for you or me—if so, is the forward rental contract flexible enough to allow the Government installation of hair curlers as and when Wellington’s fashions change?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility in this particular case.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would suggest to the member that in his case and mine, hair straighteners are no use paid for by anybody, frankly.

Labour press release: Labour attacks cost of MBIE’s “flashy foyer” in new Stout Street offices

Joyce squirming on Sky ‘free plus costs’

While the Sky City scam poses major problems for Key’s Government it is Steven Joyce who is squirming the most, beause he has driven the project and the deal. Vernon Small in Counting the cost of ‘free’:

This week ministers have been trying to rewrite history on just what “free” meant.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, whose name is on the deal, indulged in contortions unbecoming of a minister of a certain age, claiming the deal was “free to the agreed value of $402m”.

To be fair when the – shall we call it draft deal? – was announced in May 2013 he said SkyCity’s contribution was limited to $315m – a figure that represented the $402m cost less the value of the land.

And he did not rule out extra taxpayer funding at the time.

Joyce also avoided suggesting that a gambling corporation could be handed out milliions of free taxpayer money.

And Joyce was left squirming in Parliament yesterday when questioned by Labour’s David Clark.

Dr David Clark : Why should taxpayer money be given to a casino company that in the last 6 months alone made a net profit of $66.6 million?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : There is no requirement to do so at all, but the discussion is about the construction of a convention centre. It has agreed to build one for $402 million.

Sky City announced their their latest profits yesterday – SKYCITY 2015 Interim Result to 31 December 2014

Dr David Clark : When he proudly announced in July 2013 that Skycity will meet the full costs of the convention centre, was he meaning full costs in a strict legal sense or more in a pretty legal kind of way?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

How can you have ‘additional costs’ to ‘full costs’?

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that the value of Skycity shares surged by $76 million yesterday on the back of comments about a taxpayer-funded bailout, and does this not just show that Skycity knows it has the Government over a barrel of its own making?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would be very surprised if the price of a Skycity share went up by $76 million in 1 day, but I know that the member is a very clever Treasury analyst, so maybe he knows a little bit more about it than we do.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Joyce argued semantics but Clark had got his point across. While he is talking about a very short time period the Sky share price jumped over the last two days:

SkySharesFeb15Joyce’s response was waffly.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Another interuption from Joyce…

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am putting the—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Leave has been sought to table a document. I therefore need to put the leave, and then I can hear a point of order subsequent to that, if you wish to raise one. Leave has been sought to table this particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

…but leave was put to table the document. It sounded like a sole objection from the Government side of the house but the point had been made by Clark.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

And Joyce was left trying to explain the unexplainable, how a free convention centre has become free plus costs.

Full draft transcript: 5. Skycity Convention Centre—Funding

Meanwhile there are peitions from both th eleft and the right opposing the costs to taxpayers.

Kiwiblog Sign the petition against taxpayer money for Sky City

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition against any taxpayer funds going towards the Sky City convention centre, on top of the regulatory concessions that were agreed to.

Currently 908 signatures.

The Standard Say NO to the $140m SkyCity bailout

The Labour Party is organising a petition against the $140 million bailout SkyCity is demanding – and John Key is insisting we have to pay to prevent getting an “eyesore” of a convention centre

You can sign the petition here.

Currently 19,291 people have signed.

David Clark on Otago gas exploration – yeah, nah

Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley has taken a swipe at Dunedin North MP David Clark about his lack of support for gas exploration and potential business and jobs for Dunedin. ODT reports:

A Dunedin city councillor has accused Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark of putting votes before jobs as the debate over exploratory gas drilling heats up in the South.

The comments by Cr Andrew Whiley – a vocal supporter of gas exploration off the Otago coast – were made in his new role as spokesman for the gas supporters’ group Pro Gas Otago.

However, Mr Clark hit back yesterday, saying Cr Whiley’s summary was ”simplistic” and his group appeared to be ”parroting the National Party position”.

That sounds like Clark is putting politics before the people of Dunedin.

In his statement, released on Thursday afternoon, Cr Whiley said a member of the group had met Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse and Mr Clark to discuss Shell and Anadarko’s exploratory drilling plans.

Mr Woodhouse was ”very supportive” of the industry’s arrival but the group was ”disappointed” by Mr Clark, who ”felt that supporting this industry may cost him votes”, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Whiley yesterday, confirmed he had not been at the meeting, but stood by the comments anyway and urged Mr Clark to do more to support exploratory drilling.

”My view is: the same people who were campaigning for Hillside … should be in support of the jobs that could be created by exploration off the coast.

Publicly Clark (and Dunedin South colleague Clare Curran) has until now been mute on exploration. He responded to ODT:

Mr Clark said it was ”not true” he was putting votes before jobs.

”I did say that North Dunedin people are concerned about environmental outcomes and therefore wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining without appropriate checks and balances.

”I think the Dunedin North electorate is sophisticated enough to understand that appropriate development of mineral resources can support decent incomes, but are not willing to support mineral development at any cost.”

His view was consistent with that of Labour leader David Cunliffe, who earlier this week said the party supported deep sea oil and gas exploration ”in principle”, but would toughen environmental protection laws.

That sounds like fence sitting “yeah, nah” uncertainty. He doesn’t mention gas here, just mining and minerals but states something largely irrelevant – “wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining” –  mining and drilling are regulated, the question is how regulated it should be.

Clark has not expressed any support for oil exploration business or jobs in Dunedin here, he has vaguely parroted Labour’s vague position and attacked National.

This looks like party politics and elections first, Dunedin and jobs second, or third, or yeah, nah.

The prospects of Dunedin MPs working together for the best interests of the city and region don’t look good.


“Labour face disaster at the next election”

Labour have struggled to make an impression since Helen Clark and Michael Cullen departed after their 2008 election loss.

They struggled under Phil Goff.

They struggled more under David Shearer.

And they continue to struggle under David Cunliffe.

It must be more than a leadership deficit. The Labour caucus and the Labour Party machinery seem to be in perpetual struggle mode.

In the last few days alone – launching their election year, a time when it was essential Cunliffe and Labour made a strong impression – Labour have lurched from embarrassment to stuff-up.

Their ‘baby bonus’ launch has been overwhelmed by controversies. As well as strong criticism for offering people on high incomes a baby benefit the policy has been beset by controversy and David Cunliffe has had to admit he made mistaken claims.

And amongst this Dunedin North MP David Clark, once promoted as a fast riser in the Labour ranks – Shearer promoted him to 12 in the Labour rankings – has made a major blooper suggesting the Government should be able to threaten to ban use of Facebook if the multinational didn’t pay enough tax.

3 News reported:

Banning Facebook was an extreme suggestion from Labour Party MP David Clark – and it took party leader David Cunliffe just 24 hours to shut it down.

Mr Cunliffe has now ruled it out completely, but ridicule from the Government still came hard and fast.

Just 24 hours? That was far too long, this embarrassment should have been dealt with swiftly. It wasn’t.

In yesterday’s post David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce ‘Goldie’ commented on the litany of Labour errors.

The comment by Kiwi in America is spot on.

First, it underlines the lack of talent in the Labour caucus. Dunedin is a Labour stronghold, so the MPs should be the stars of the party – instead you have Clare Curran and David Clark.

Second, it shows the lack of discipline in Labour – there is absolutely no way, when the policy focus should have been the “baby bonus”, that Clark should have been permitted to talk on anything else. Cunliffe’s office is not operating as it should. It lacks grip over its MPs, and can’t control its own issues (witness the speed with which the “baby bonus” policy got derailed).

Third, Labour have not been able to uncover a single major scandal on the Government and Labour have not been able to make a single policy that has not been widely shredded within days in three years. It says to me that the political machinery behind the scenes – the party researchers and advisers – have become “hollowed out”.

In contrast, the Greens are busy, focused and confident. They have the great advantage of not needing to appeal to either centre or apathetic voters, but only to people who are going to vote left anyway. As National look increasingly like they will win the election, left-leaning voters will have less reason to stay disciplined to Labour, and will “shop around” (like what happened to National in 2002).

Labour face disaster at the next election.

It’s very early in election year but Labour, who desperately needed a strong start, have stuffed up again. And again.

Unless Cunliffe can transform himself into a strong and positive alternative (too many mistakes and too much sneering snark), unless the Labour caucus can look united and competent, unless the Labour media machine can provide competent advise and support and unless the Labour Party can function effectively then it’s on the cards that Labour could face disaster at the next election.

If that happens it will be bad for New Zealand politics. We need strong party leadership and performance, especially from the large parties. Labour is losing it’s way, losing credibility. If this continues we all lose.

Update: It appears to be continuing unabated. Good grief. David Parker this time, in Parliament yesterday. See Labour says Apple et al plundering NZ economy.

David Clark attacked from all sides on Facebook farce

Labour’s Revenue spokesperson David Clark has provoked derision from all sides for suggesting Government should have the banning of websites such as Facebook an option if they don’t pay enough tax – see Labour – pay more tax or ban Facebook.

No Right Turn – Not a credible solution

I am no fan of tax cheats, but comparing them to peaedophiles is a bit over the top.

People still access those paedophile websites, despite them being banned; how does Clark think it will work with one of the world’s most popular websites, which according to his own press releases has 2.2 million users in New Zealand? And does he think that people will vote for a party which threatens to turn off their web-crack?

Kiwiblog – Labour jumps the shark.

Oh my God. He is comparing Facebook to paedophile websites. How can anyone think Labour is even close to ready for power, when they come out with this crap.

And as it happens paedophile websites are not banned in NZ. It is illegal to download or upload paedophile images, and browsing such a site may be a criminal offence, but the Government has no power to ban any website.

Putting aside the sheer lunacy of advocating the Government should try and ban Facebook if they don’t pay more tax, isn’t there something deeply malevolent about an aspiring Government making such threats. If you think a company should pay more tax, then you change the law to close down loopholes. But to declare as an MP that you have unilaterally decided Company X should pay more tax, and that you will threaten to ban them from New Zealand unless they voluntarily agree to pay more tax is what you expect from some tin pot third world dictatorship, not a so called serious political party.

MP Gareth Hughes makes it clear Greens think it’s a no go.


@pitakakariki you do it by changing the rules, not threatening to ban them. We should never ever talk about banning legal websites

Greens will not threaten to ban legal websites like Facebook

And it goes beyond being one dumb idea by one MP. It’s not the first time Clark has appeared out of his depth. This is another bad lok for Labour’s management, as ‘kiwi in america’ says on Kiwiblog:

Gosh – where to begin. Labour seems determined to score as many own goals as possible. When the Greens publicly and quickly disavow your policy musings you are in a power of trouble.

Labour proves it is light years away from being ready to govern because this comment reveals so many glaring deficiencies:

* Lack of message control by the new Leader’s Office – one thing a good LOO does is ensure all economic pronouncements uttered by any spokesperson are cleared through the LOO office first – even silent T knows this is electoral poison.

* Clark has made economically illiterate comments before about corporates not paying enough tax – that he has not been warned or advised to excercise constraint speaks volumes for the illiteracy that exists across the front bench. Neither Parker, Cunliffe nor any other prominent front bencher has sought to clarify or contradict Clark’s previous comments about taxing gross revenues rather than profits revealing a deep and fundamental ignorance of the business world and how it operates that is rampant through Labour.

* The notion that any senior politician in NZ would commit a mainstream party to the type of policy that is only seen in banana republics speaks volumes for how some on the left view the world. To contemplate shutting down the world’s largest social media site in NZ has a King Canute quality to it.

Finally, Labour had 9 years to attack the issue of multi national corporate transfer pricing tendencies and did ….. well nothing. There is a reason why ‘politics of envy’ specialist and lover of taxes on “rich pricks” Michael Cullen couldn’t manage to get the likes of Amazon or Apple to pay more tax in New Zealand and it’s because you’d have to address this issue and have agreement from not just every first world country’s tax authorities but a raft of tax havens as well. Not happening.

What will Clark and Labour do about this? Probably ignore it and hope it’s quickly forgotten, but this is part of an accumulation of incompetence.

The only plus for Labour is it took some of the attention off yet another policy announcement disaster, the ‘baby bonus’ scheme.



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