Excuses and ethics for Hager don’t stack up

There have been very polarised views on Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, from lauding him for exposing some of the dirtiest politics being practiced (including me with some reservations) to condemning him for playing as dirty as those he exposes using illegally obtained information (including me to an  extent).

Some have strongly defended and praised Hager, like Sacha at Public Address, endorsed by Sofie Bribiesca :

…an internationally-respected investigative journalist who has never had a single fact in any of his books successfully challenged.

Hager may be internationally respected as a journalist in some circles but this book was very shoddy journalism at best.

It was pointed out be me and others that Dirty Politics was also factually shoddy – there were few facts, it comprised mostly of a selected collection of online conversations.

A number of errors or contestable claims were cited. This resulted in what is common on blogs, they gave up their argument and turned to attacking the messenger. Dirty politics, albeirt on a different scale to Whale Oil but also clearly intended to intimidate, bully and shut up.

Sacha also said in the same comment quoted above:

Why else do you think people like the PM go straight to personal attacks on Hager (which when repeated often enough may result in people who do not do their homework forming an impression of a ‘controversial reputation’, exactly as intended)?

That’s rather ironic. Sacha was one of the ones who joined in the personal attacks.

One of the main criticisms of Hager’s book is his non-journalistic method of stitching together conversations to make damaging insinuations – David Farrar points out one example in How Hager got it wrong on The Princess Party and concludes:

If Mr Hager is doing reprints of his book, I would appreciate it if he could make the appropriate corrections.

And perhaps this is a lesson to everyone out there, not to take everything in the book at face value. If he has got this wrong, what else has he got wrong? Again this is what happens when you don’t verify anything or give people a chance to respond.

‘Toad’ commented on that:

If Hager had interviewed anybody, word would have got around and he would have been injuncted to prevent publication.

Yes, that may cause some inferences to be drawn from the emails that are based on hearsay and therefore not entirely accurate.

Real journalists make sure they have investigated properly and checked both sides of their stories so injunctions won’t be  unnecessary.’Nookin’ responded to toad.

Hager is on record as saying that journalists have a non-negotiable obligation to be accurate and fair and to protect their sources. See the link to his article on the thread about Goff. Are you saying that non-negotiable must be read “subject to the proviso that timing is everything and accuracy and fairness must succumb to the over-riding goal of kicking National in the slats”?

The link is to “Where are you, ethically?” A speech to the to the Records Management Association of Australasia conference, 10 September 2007 on Hager’s website. In this he says:

I was given the speech topic “Where are you, ethically?” and asked to challenge all of you to think about the ethical issues involved in your work. It feels presumptuous to launch into challenging other people about their ethics, so I thought it might be good to start off as an example by talking about the kinds of ethical issues and decisions that come up in my work. I will be trying to show the way that we all face ethical decisions in our work.

My work involves researching difficult subjects such as military operations, intelligence agencies, PR companies and the less open sides of politics. My research involves writing freedom of information requests, conducting fieldwork, reading archives, locating specialist or lateral sources of public information and interviewing people. For subjects that are very secret, I sometimes have to seek people inside organisations who will talk to me unofficially and sometimes leak information to me. There are lots of challenging ethical issues involved in this.

On privacy:

There are lots of interesting ethical issues involved that are at the heart of understanding which records the public has a legitimate right to see and which it does not.

The first issue is about privacy. I am well known for being an advocate for people’s rights to privacy. My first book revolved around those issues. So what am I doing publishing someone’s private communications? Where am I, ethically?

The answer lies in the meaning of ‘privacy’. ‘Private e-mails’ can mean two very different things. ‘Private’, in the sense of personal privacy, refers to people’s families, personal relationships, health information and so on. I believe there has to be a very, very strong reason before anyone has a right to intrude on other people’s privacy and accordingly I included no such information in my book on the National Party. There were no private e-mails in that sense.

I hope you agree that respecting and protecting people’s privacy is a fundamental ethical and professional issue for anyone in your profession. I think some organisations are too blase or careless about the protection of the personal private information that they hold.

However the other meaning of private e-mails is completely different. This is ‘private’ in the sense of something being kept confidential, as in ‘private ministerial meeting’ or ‘private diplomatic talks’. It is secrecy, not privacy. I regularly obtain and use private documents in this sense of the word. I couldn’t do my job properly if I didn’t. The National Party book contained hundreds and hundreds of this sort of private document.

This is interesting, because the email and Facebook conversations used by Hager in Dirty Politics were private, they were not ‘secret’ or confidential ministerial or Government records. They were from private individuals.

Some people would say, ‘if it’s a good story, just publish it’. Publish and be damned. But I believe that wherever our action or decision — or inaction or avoidance of a decision — might affect other people, we have a responsibility to think carefully and do what we think is best.

There’s justifiable claims that Hager just published this – perhaps under too much time pressure. David Fisher writes in Tidal wave of dirt that could swamp election:

“I heard a rumour about someone who had some stuff,” says Hager, whose books on spies have generated contacts in IT circles. “He already had a plan in his mind to set up a Twitter account and splash it all out there.”

Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics.

The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.

So Hager published his book ‘ethically’ removing personal details – even that’s debatable, he revealed identities and made damaging insinuations that were far from a journalistic standard – knowing full well that the whole contents would be revealed soon afterwards anyway.

Hager knew that his book was just a part of a greater degree of private revelations, but he chose to take part anyway.

Not only do the excuses for Hager not stack up, Hager’s own ethics are severely challenged by his involvement in this.

“Not as bad as Whale Oil”

Since the release of Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ there has been much discussion and condemnation of what has been revealed – even though much of the dirtiness of Cameron Slater was already well known. He has boasted about his political uncleanliness.

Last year after the Len Brown revelations just after the local body elections Slater said on The Nation:

Mr Slater argued that Auckland politics was “a dirty disgusting despicable game”.

“It involves dirty disgusting despicable people at all levels,” he said.

“And to have this high and mighty belief that New Zealand politics is clean, it isn’t.”

(Frontpage)

He repeated this on his Whale Oil blog recently. He often quotes ” Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it”, along others from his list of ‘rules’.

Whaleoil’s Rules of Politics

1. If you are explaining, you are losing

2. Utu is good, even necessary

3. Never hug a corpse – it smells and you end up smelling like the corpse too

4. Always know where the bodies are buried

5. Don’t let mongrels get away with being mongrels

6. Don’t mess with The Whale or Cactus Kate

7. Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.

8. Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer

9. Speak plain, Speak Simple

10. Remember, I’m telling this story

11. Never trust a politician if you aren’t close enough to them to hit them in the back of the head with a bit of 4×2

12. Never trust a politician with a moustache or a hyphenated name

There might be a lot of people, especially politicians, giving serious consideration to rule 3 right now.

Slater’s personal attacks and vindictiveness are well known. There’s no one who comes close to his media prominence and dirtiness in New Zealand politics.

So all other bloggers can comfortably claim they are “not as bad as Whale Oil”. But that sets the bar very low and should not excuse lesser levels of dirtiness.

One of the more long serving and respected bloggers Russell Brown posted  We can do better than this at Public Address and concluded:

In one of the early reports that annoyed me, Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards, talked about smears being unleashed to “blogs” and “the blogosphere”.

Actually, we’re not all like that. The multitude of bloggers, political bloggers included, have no part in this. And while the cynical side of politics is not new, I do believe that the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can, all of us, do better than this.

Russell is right, we’re “not all like that”. No one else is as bad as Whale Oil. I agree that “the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented” – although it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to Russell if he was aware of what Whale Oil has been doing for years.

But in comments Russell seems to think that the ‘all of us” in “We can, all of us, do better than this” doesn’t apply equally to all of us.

It’s over to you, Pete, to identify a left-leaning blogger with even a tenth of the venality and vindictiveness of WhaleOil.

I feel kind of icky agreeing with Pete (sorry, Mr. George) but if our baseline is “not as bad as Whaleoil” that’s a depressingly low bar you can clear without lifting your feet.

Which is really just a morally elevated way of saying “everyone does it”. It’s simply not true. What has happened in and around Whaleoil these past few years is actually of a different nature.

He seems to be claiming it’s not true that everyone doesn’t do it, despite calling for “all od us” to do better.

Some of what Whale Oil has done has been of a different nature” and of a more extreme nature, but there are many examples of dirt mongering across the blogosphere. Russell moderates Public Address fairly well but even his own blog shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. There’s dirt at different levels but there’s dirt – there were even mild attempts to attack me personally to divert from the issues being discussed on that thread (eg ScottY and Kracklite).

Public Address is relatively mild but still allows personal political attacks and dirty comments. The other major left wing blogs The Standard and The Daily Blog allow and promote a lot of abuse and attempts to emulate some of Whale Oil’s “success”.

Lynn Prentice (lprent) at The Standard often boasts about his nastiness:

That is because in my sysop role I’m deliberately a nasty vindictive mean old man with abuse of power issues, whose only redeeming quality is that he is too lazy to be bothered exercising those traits, but who often and almost randomly goes totally over the top when roused.

And as chief moderator that sets the tone for blog with support of a one sided attack culture.

And Martyn Bradbury is well know for over the top rants and abuse, as well as doing party promotional blog posting without revealing he is being paid by or seeking payment for his work, one of the things Slater is correctly criticised for.

Josie Pagan is very familiar with how nasty the left wing blogs can get, they have blasted her a number of times. She recently posted The politics of vilification.

Nicky Hager’s book exposes both the politics of demonisation and the National Government’s role in facilitating it. The right wing blogs have been more extreme, more violent and more coordinated with the parliamentary party and so the book is their comeuppance. 

I agree with that. Whale Oil is obviously the main culprit but Kiwiblog can be very nasty in it’s comments and I think the generally and widely respected David Farrar would admit to overstepping lines of decency at times (as most if not all bloggers do to varying degrees).

But imagine how much harder would it be for the government to deflect some of the disgusting stuff they’ve been involved in if some on the left blogs had not spent so much energy vilifying and demonising people they disagree with.

I’ve been suggesting to left wing blogs for a long time thatthey would be fdar more credible and effective if they cut down on the crap – I’ve been banned from The Standard for giving them advice along those lines.

At least Farrar recognises problems and has pledged ttake measures to try to improve Kiwiblog – Some changes for Kiwiblog.

Josie concluded:

But there is also a wider lesson to everyone about the way politics is conducted. 

As I wrote back in December, “The fundamental principle of the left is our compassion…. Ours is the politics of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.” 

Or, as Nicky Hager elegantly stated on The Nation this morning, “if anyone is doing it, they should stop.

It’s hard to see Whale Oil changing it’s degree of nastiness but if we are to improve political discourse in New Zealand it’s up to all of the rest of us to do what we can to improve – bloggers and politicians.

Directing all the blame at the other lot and demanding action from them ignores those shitting in our own nests.

Yes Russell, we can, all of us, do better than this. ‘All of us’ means not opting out because we’re are not as bad as Whale Oil.

UPDATE: Russell has responded via Twitter:

Thanks for another droning restatement of what you’ve already said. I’m at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do about it.

I replied: Try using your stature showing some leadership in the blogosphere in raising standards perhaps?

Kiwiblog steps up

David Farrar has stepped up to a major challenge and is promising improvements at Kiwiblog – see Some changes for Kiwiblog.

Farrar has always been one of the most open bloggers on disclosure, and he is are taking that even further. 

I receive up to a dozen unsolicited e-mails a day, suggesting stories to me. Most are from people who are not politicians or staff – just ordinary readers. Some are just links to stories, some make some points on a topical issue. I sometimes quote these e-mails in posts. I have always been very careful to distinguish between content I write, and content people may send me (which I quote as coming from a reader). But I’m going to go a further step and if any content substantially comes from a parliamentary, or political party staffer, source I will state so when using it. I will not name individuals, but if I quote someone I will include information on their affiliations, when relevant. You will find this is very infrequently.

The comments and commenters at Kiwiblog have a reputation for being many things, usually negative. There’s no doubt it can be a very abusive and insenstitive forum at times. Amongst the noise there are also many very worthwhile and interesting comments and commenters, but reputation focuses mainly on the worst.

After the election (ie when I have more time) I am going to consult on a tougher moderation policy for the comments. I want them to be robust and forceful, but focused more on issues than people. I have very limited time to read them myself, so probably will ask for some readers to step forward as moderators. We’ll have that discussion in October.

Moderation can be very time consuming, a difficult beast to confront. It’s a REAL SHAME that more responsibility and respect isn’t shown by commenters who are guests on Kiwiblog. This will be a challenge but it’s worth doing.

Farrar is setting a higher standard for himself – now it will be interesting to see if the blogs to the left who have been busy claiming they are not as bad as those on the right step up and follow your example.

As Bunji has just posted at The Standard – Left wing blogs aren’t “the same”.

No, they are not the same. Are they willing to up their standards too? What about it lprent? 

UPDATE: Already The Standard has indicated where they stand on this, showing their hypocrisy in claiming the moral high ground – No Changes for Kiwiblog.

Whoever wrote and posted that didn’t even have the guts to disclose their name or pseudonym.

Who’s been hacking?

This post follows the Hager precedent where it is ok to float a few bits of information and let others join the dots.

Cameron Slater has accused Kim Dotcom of being involved in hacking his email and Facebook data. Dotcom has stated:

For the record: I haven’t hacked Whaleoil. I have nothing to do with Hager’s book. There will be legal action against Slater & co

However that is a loose disclaimer. I asked for clarification:

Can you confirm that you had no knowledge of or anything to do with the hacking of ?

No response to that.So there’s an obvious possibility there.

The next dot – David Farrar claims I’ve either been hacked or spied on.

I started reading more fully the book yesterday, and the footnotes in the book. To my shock I realised that Hager had info in the book that could not have come from the hacking of Cameron Slater, but could only have come from my computer, my apartment or my office.

Specifically he refers to copies of two scripts used by my company, Research, this year. There is absolutely no way they could have come from Cameron Slater’s computer systems, as Cameron doesn’t have them. No one has them but me and my office.

I thought about how this could have happened. The two most likely scenarios are that my computer systems have also been hacked, or that someone physically removed the scripts from my office (or possibly apartment).

A commenter ‘berend’ points out:

The source is an employee. Footnote 17 for chapter 9 says “Confidential source.” Footnote 18 calls him “The employee said”.

Next dot – as I posted yesterday, the gmail account I use for political correspondence and my Facebook account have been hacked.

What would I have in common with Slater and Farrar? They are big time bloggers with long and substantial involvement in politics and with the National Party.

I’m a small time independent blogger with scant political connections.

Another dot – suddenly another blogger who usually shuns mainstream media is going public – see Prentice irritated by Labour links and he was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning. Lynn Prentice, known as lprent.

Prentice and I have sparred online for years. He has made some funny claims like this last year in an ironic Pete George – an example of right wing blogging falsehoods (his grand entrance at The Daily Blog). He and many other left wing activists cal me a right winger. That’s very funny.

A post at The Standard (ironically on a post called Happy Labour Day):

The likes of Cam Slater, David Farrar, Brett Dale, John Key, Jami-lee Ross, Mike Hosking, Leighton Smith, Lucia maria (she also want to see the gays exterminated), Colin Craig, John Banks, Simon Bridges, Bob McCroskie, Gosman, Fisiani, Santi, Grumpy, Matthew Hooton Monique Angel, Pete George and all others that I have left off my list (sorry, will be here all night), are to trade unionists what the SA brownshirts were to the Jews in 1930′s Germany, common thugs who see those who belong to a trade unions (along with homosexuals) as vermin to be exterminated in a Final Solution.

Get ready folks, post 2014 we will see trade unionists streaming through our court system when National make joining a trade union to be a crime, and the PPTA outlawed in our schools.

Slavery, here we come.

That’s not an unusual view from the far left, anyone seen as an opponent is viewed as an enemy to be defeated by an means possible. 

Some of the Twitter respnses to Dotcom’s hacking denial are also indicative:

go get him kim, teach him a lesson the old fashioned way. Bet em’ at their own game! Eradicate the problem!

Slaters are nasty creatures. Slimy, greasy and sticky to stamp on.

Pete is missing the point. Whoever hacked WhaleOil’s computer deserves congratulation.

Back to a Standard stalwart, ‘felix':

felix

The thing that sticks out for me about the Slater boy, Farrar, and their unpaid intern Pete George, is that they all resort to variations of “He’s got to be more careful, there are some real scumbags out there who will twist his words against him at every opportunity”.

Hey dicks, that’s you guys.

No-one else gives a fuck.

And another:

Clemgeopin

@Pete George
The way you come across with your posts is that you are here to put down Labour and the left, and take the side of the right wing. That is irritating and mostly time wasting rather than genuine debate or discussion.

If your intention is to push the agenda of the right, your natural place to hang would be the well known right wing blogs, of Slater and Farrar.

And back to Prentice who links me with Slater

Leaving the perverted obsessions to Cameron Slater and even Pete George seems like a wise thing for us to do.

and the right wing

Appointing PG makes me immediately suspect the organisation is just another right wing shill like the Taxpayers union and other previous ones.

…etc etc – it’s fair to say I have irritated Prentice for some time and he seems to have had a habit of targeting me. And David Farrar. And Cameron Slater.

I have absolutely no evidence who hacked me. I haven’t seen any evidence who hacked Slater or Farrar.

There’s a likely connection between the hacking of Slater and Farrar. Who on earth would think to put me in that same basket of cases?

There is one piece of evidence linking lprent and the hacking of my gmail.

Got one of those this morning. Looks like PG’s email has been hacked. Virtually identical to several others over the years.

That’s just because he (and mickysavage) were in my gmail address book.

Who’s been hacking? I don’t know. But there’s as many dots here as in a Hager hatchet job.

In any case would lprent have the IT expertise or the desire to axe some opponents to resort to illegal hacking? 

 

I’ve also been hacked

A major part of the Nicky Hager ‘Dirty Politics’ book revelations is who hacked Cameron Slater and apparently illegally obtained emails and Facebook conversation data.

It would be an even bigger issue if the hacking was more widespread.

  • my Xtra email was hacked last year (Xtra were having major problems with email security)
  • at the end of last year one of my gmail accounts was hacked (the account I use for political correspondence only)
  • early this year my Facebook was at least flagged as under attack

I have no idea if this is related or not but one does wonder.

I have a fairly minor voice in the blogosphere and in especially politics in New Zealand, but I have been labeled by some as right wing alongside Cameron Slater and David Farrar, by people like Lynn Prentice at The Standard and Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog (in fact Prentice’s debut post at The Daily Blog did just that – Pete George – an example of right wing blogging falsehoods)

I’ve exchange a small number of emails with Cameron Slater of the years – and also with David Farrar of Kiwiblog, Prentice and other authors at The Standard, Bradbury and other authors at The Daily Blog, and other bloggers across the spectrum.

I’m not exactly on good terms with Slater (and never have been):

  • I’ve had a number of confrontations and debates with Slater on Whale Oil and in Twitter
  • I was banned from Whale Oil about a month ago with a trumped up excuse (I was arguing contrary to Slater’s views on issues around rape and cultures).
  • A few weeks ago Slater posted ‘Breaking News’ that tried to dump me in legal trouble over breaking name suppression.

While Slater has been ground breaking with his blogging/on line media and has had unprecedented levels of success – and I applaud him for that, to an extent – I have always been opposed to his dirty approach to doing politics and have argued against him on that.

But as stated some saw me as linked to the right wing conspiracy.

I would be flattered if I was the target of political hacking – but would also view it with extreme concern.

Data being stolen from Slater is a serious issue. If political hacking has been more widespread then it would be even more serious.

The hacking aspect of Hager’s revelations should get as much scrutiny as the dirty politics Hager claims to have revealed.

 

Hager’s book – early impact

Nicky Hager’s just released book Dirty Politics seems to mostly conform common knowledge but some interesting bits have been reported, especially:

@BrookSabin

Hager says Slater blackmailed Rodney Hide to stand down.

Felix Geiringer @BarristerNZ

To embarrass @phil_goff, it seems @johnkeypm told @Whaleoil to OIA classified docs, declassified them, and expedited release

Whale Oil and Kiwiblog comments are playing it all down as nothing to worry about but Cameron Slater and David Farrar should have some concerns, as should John Key.

Timing is awkward for Slater as he has just been in Fiji and is now in Korea. He has posted (with numerous comments following):

Hager’s Book

No doubt you will all want to talk about Hager’s book, even though none of us read it yet. This is the post to chat about it if you like – leave the Backchat for other things.

It is of course likely to be a very single sided affair, and a direct attack on the government to hurt it at election time. What is being framed here is only one side of politics in New Zealand. Hager conveniently appears to avoid what happens on the left.

But that’s ok. Nothing changes.

 A lot is likely to change. Maybe a Government, depending on how damaging this is.

I’ve only just got to Korea where I have pre-existing arrangements.

To other media – I will be hard to get hold of for a while. Time difference and a full schedule will get in the way. If you like, get your stuff to me via email instead of phoning me.

And if you like, my absence can be spun as part of the conspiracy story that Hagar has put together.

Of course it will be fascinating to get a glimpse behind the scenes of New Zealand politics. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

I’m finding it very interesting, but I don’t find dirty politics enjoyable.

Farrar has played it light on Twitter but hasn’t posted yet. General comments on it at at Kiwiblog from here.

UPDATE: now posted The Hager book

Rather bemused to find an entire chapter of Nicky Hager’s book is on me, and also how banal it is. Almost everything in there is in the public domain, as I live a pretty open life. But what Hager has done is wave his normal conspiracy theory through everything and make the fact that bloggers and other talk to each other, some sort of sinister thing.

Basically the chapter is a revelation that I am a member of the National Party! I didn’t realise this was a big secret.

It’s worth reading his whole post, which includes some counter punches – of course there are left wing bloggers (anonymous) who are close to other parties.

The best of the blog threads so far is at Public Address where the comments discuss doubts over claims of how the data was obtained. There could be a lot more to be examined and possibly revealed on this yet.

The Standard has two posts so far:

Martyn Bradbury is going off like a bomber – The Nicky Hager Book – Dirty Politics. How Attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment

Interesting that two days ago Bradbury posted ‘guesses’ about the book:

Here are my 3 guesses on his book.

1 – Right wing spin doctors in Wellington will be crying harder than Matthew Hooton post the Hollow Men.
2 – We won’t hear from the Taxpayer Union for a while.
3 – This won’t be the only time Nicky makes an impact before the election.

I wonder how he knew. Dotcom and Harre seemed to be taking a close interest in the book release today.

Regardless of how serious this gets for National – and other parties that ‘secretly’ use blogs should be careful how much exposure on this they wish for – I hope this gives the party and social media dirty tricks a damn good shake up.

New Zealand democracy and Parliament and Government deserves much better. Now could be a good time to demand it.

Capital Gains Tax – how much more tax?

There’s some doubt about a claim by David Farrar that Labour to increase taxation by $5 billion a year through their proposed Capital Gains Tax.

On Q+A, David Cunliffe said:

By the way, a capital gains tax which at full running is going to bring in 5 billion dollars a year, close to, 4 to 5 billion is the single biggest change to New Zealand tax policy in decades and it’s one that I’ve personally championed for years.

That’s appalling. That’s an extra $5 billion a year ripped out of NZ families and businesses, to be spent by Government.

There is a case for a capital gains tax. I support a broad base tax system. However I’m sick of new taxes being added on, with no compensating reduction in income and company taxes.

If ’s capital gains tax was really about changing investment incentives, then they’d commit to reducing income and company tax by the same amount of revenue their CGT would bring in.

But in reality, their CGT is just about increase the tax burden on New Zealanders by $5 billion a year.

There’s doubt about the amount at least. Oddly Labour don’t list Capital Gains Tax in their announced policies.

It is mentioned in Monetary Policy:

Another step to encourage NZ savings, and investment in the export and import substituting real economy, would be to remove the tax bias which currently favours investment in land based investments by introducing a tax on capital gains from property, excluding the family home.

The current tax bias is unusual in western countries and contributes to underinvestment in the productive economy, and savings.

The tax advantages drive asset prices, and demand for mortgage borrowing, to higher levels than would otherwise be sustained. This increases demand for imported borrowings, which puts pressure on the exchange rate.

This distortion in the tax system also pushes up house and other property prices beyond the reach of many, while enabling wealthier New Zealanders to pay lower rates of tax on their economic income.

It’s not mentioned in their Fiscal Plan summary  but it’s in the associated media release (briefly):

“Labour will introduce a new, progressive top tax rate of 36 per cent on income over $150,000; that’s the top 2 per cent of income earners. We will also raise trustee income tax to 36 per cent to avoid trusts being used as tax avoidance vehicles.

“This combined with our capital gains tax will allow the Labour-led Government to run surpluses and pay down National’s record debt by the end of our second term,” David Cunliffe says.

David Parker says: “Everything is paid for, plus we are in surplus.

It’s in their detailed Fiscal Plan:

However this only claims to bring in an extra $1 billion per year:

This policy will raise an additional $25 million in its first year, growing in outyears to reach $1 billion a year by 2020/21.

Cunliffe or the Fiscal Plan must be inaccurate about how much extra per year Labour would tax.

UPDATE: a comment at Kiwiblog suggests another total:

From David Parker in the 2011/2012 budget debate

http://theyworkforyou.co.nz/debates/2011/aug/02/estimates_debate

Treasury’s estimate of the long-term revenue from a capital gains tax excluding the family home was $4.8 billion per annum. We remodelled that through our consultants, Business and Economic Research Ltd, and they cut that back by $2 billion per annum at the maturity of the scheme. So it is raising $2.8 billion per annum once it is a mature scheme, rather than $4.8 billion. The sensitivities in the Business and Economic Research Ltd analysis show that it could be $1 billion per annum more than that, but we have taken the conservative course and assumed the lower figure.

The maximum claimed there is $3.8 billion, still well under Cunliffe’s $5 billion.

Horan responds to speculatory accusations

Speculation about independent MP Brendan Horan at The Standard has been refuted by Horan.

A post by ‘Geoff’ was full of speculation and accusation and absent any facts – Why does David Farrar hate Winston Peters so much? Farrar responded in Best ever thread on The Standard.

The post included speculation about Horan’s motives and possible collusion with Farrar and National in his questioning of Winston Peters and NZ First in Parliament over the past few weeks.

Lately, Brendan Horan has begun to attack Winston in parliament, somewhat out of the blue.
What is his motivation? Is this National attacking Winston through the satellite state of Brendan Horan?

Why would National do that? Have they decided, in private at least, that a coalition with Winston is intolerable? That’s seems risky because they may need his help to form a government after the election.

Are they just trying to diminish his vote, hoping that most of his supporters would vote National if they abandoned Winston? That would explain the use of Horan as a means to attack Winston without completely jeopardising a post-election deal with him.

How much of a say does David Farrar have in the National party’s election strategy?

Perhaps Farrar is by-passing National and feeding attack lines to Horan directly?

It’s all very fishy. Can anyone shed any light on this?

Horan’s attacks on Peters are not “somewhat out of the blue”. He indicated to me last year that after his family business was dealt with (the excuse Peters used to kick Horan out of the NZ First caucus and party, absent any facts) he would be revealing concerns he had about NZ First.

Geoff’s accusations themselves seemed very fishy, or fishing, and any questioning of them were slapped with Standard threats.

[lprent: Don't be stupid. You are likely to pick up a ban if you accused an author or the site of ulterior motives without proof or a reasonable theory. In the latter case it would usually be after you wank on about it repetitively for some time making assertions without proof.]

In other words you can’t question the “ulterior motives without proof or a reasonable theory” of authors who “wank on about it repetitively for some time making assertions without proof” without risking being attacked or banned – a normal double Standard.

Horan later posted a comment in response. It deserves a right of reply post but that’s not likely to happen at The Standard.

Hi all,

1) I’ve had no contact with David Farrer.
2) All questions I’ve asked have been on behalf of people bullied by the leader of NZ First.
3) I was challenged by media to supply evidence and I did.
4) My sources are Past employees, past and current party members and former NZ First Party MP’s.
5) The speaker is investigating the Leader of NZ First and I’m happy for due process and natural justice to run its course.

Regards,
Brendan

I’ve been following Horan’s questions in Parliament and I follow David Farrar’s posts and tweets and I have seen nothing that puts any doubt on what Horan says here.

I’ve also had recent contact with an ex NZ First employee who is not impressed by some of what Peters has done within NZ First.

The desperation of political sockpuppets

Political bloggers push stories, they speculate, they try to score hits against their opponents. Some of them make things up – they lie.

Naitional linked blogs Whale Oil and Kiwiblog are major players.

Yesterday David Farrar posted Are Labour planning smear campaign on Shane Jones?

This is very unusual. Whale blogs about a poll being done, presumably on behalf of Labour, asking if people’s view of Shane Jones was:

  • Shane Jones delivered amusing one liners but his political career was accident prone and did not amount to much. The most attention he got was for using his parliamentary credit card to pay for pornographic movies.
  • Shane Jones was one of the few politicians who tells it like it is and with his attacks on Countdown has been the most effective Labour politician this year. He will be a huge loss to Labour especially amongst Maori and blue collar voters.

If the polling was being done for a media client, then the question would be sensible – it would be for a story on the impact of Shane Jones. But presumably the poll is on behalf of Labour (as was being done by their normal polling company) and the question is why would you poll on Shane Jones…

It’s easy to make the presumptions made here. UMR is Labour’s usual polling company and it’s a Labour related poll question. but it seems very unlikely it was Labour, as pointed out in UMR poll on Jones not Labour.

Farrar did some research, possibly taking Russell Brown’s word for it but he may also have checked through polling company contacts (he is a pollster and runs polling company Curia). He appended his post.

UPDATE: I’m told from a very reliable source that in this case Labour is not responsible for this question. So it will be fascinating to discover who is, if it ever comes out.

Later in the day Farrar put up another post at Kiwiblog – Is this photoshopped? This showed a photo of David Cunliffe at a rally at Parliament. While the photo did look unnatural the implication that Cunliffe had not actually been at the rally was lame. Farrar again updated:

UPDATE: Have had confirmed that was at the rally. So the image may be touched up, but is genuine.

This isn’t unusual. It’s common for bloggers to float ideas without full details or evidence, often to initiate discussion and try to flush out more information – sort of crowd-sourced story development.

Farrar can be provocative and devious – note his masthead statement: “DPF’s Kiwiblog – fomenting happy mischief since 2003″.  He is also relatively open about his interests in About Kiwiblog which includes disclosure statement is here.

He sometimes oversteps, notably with an attempted hit job on Winston Peters just before the 2011 election. But as he said on Facebook yesterday “Umm, everyone knows my viewpoint”. If they don’t know they can easily find out.

Later yesterday Farrar and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater were blasted by their main opposition in the blogosphere, The Standard. The iron fist behind The Standard, lprent (Lyn Prentice) posted The desperation of the National’s sockpuppets.

National Party pollster David Farrar must be seeing some numbers he really doesn’t like because he is claiming that David Cunliffe photoshopped himself into a rally that he was really at! Yeah right – a doyen of the local net governing body failed to use google before making a complete dick of himself on the net. I expect we will see a lot more of National’s paid for bloggers acting like fools heading into this election because National only being good at putting us heavily into debt (again!) rather limits the good news they can write.

There are a number of ironies in Prentice’s post and comments. Desperation comes to mind, as does sockpuppet. Pot/kettle stuff. In the thread Prentice says…

As you might have picked up, I am pretty pissed off about the lying that showed up today at the sewer. It is stupid, shallow, and something that needs quashing as a political technique.

However I am pretty sure that it is simple to make up such mischief. Farrar will make quite a good target between now and the election. With a bit of luck we can see if he appreciates the attention enough to donate me some discovery time.

Threats of a blogger war, one way at least. In the post…

This looks like another odd attempt to smear a man that the Nats are clearly worried about. It looks David Farrar finally realised how much of a dickhead he looks as he goes from this incorrect assertion (ie a lie) with a touch of plausible deniability.

Irony keywords: smear, worried, dickhead, incorrect assertion.

And on to a series of justification about why he David Farrar really is not just a petty dipshit putting out this kind of nonsense and never bothering to check it. I guess he is trying to remember the glory days when he was the single big voice in the local blogs and could lie like this for his paymasters with relative impunity.

He pushes the paymaster/sockpuppet theme strongly.

But even weirder (as usual) is the under-employed Cameron Slater, a blogger with no visible means of support and with lots of friends in the Prime Minsters office, posting creepy, paparazzi style pictures of David Cunliffe eating his lunch at parliament.

This picture was prominent on The Standard yesterday:

The question one has to ask is from whom did the bloated moron get this photo from? John Key our Minister for Photo-ops or his personal blogmeister Jason Ede perhaps?

And accusations of the Prime Minister’s office being involved in it all.  More pot/kettle.

The previous day The Standard ran a Q&A for David Cunliffe. When someone said “@ Lynn – thanks for organising this” he responded:

I didn’t. The request came from Cunliffe’s staff. They did most of the work.

I just went to work early so I could go home early to moderate.

And Prentice often brags, like yesterday:

I’d also point out that I spent several decades in volunteer work working for and with Helen Clark across 7 elections (whilst usually in disagreement with her) so I have a fairly good idea what is required for the task.

But you only find out about things like this if you see them in the comments. The Standard has very vague and misleading disclosures. From ‘About':

We write here in our personal capacities and the opinions that are expressed on the blog are individual unless expressly stated otherwise (see the policy). We do not write on behalf of any organization.

The Standard doesn’t disclose it’s own connections and it protects it’s authors’ anonymity – Prentice says they are not anonymous because he knows their identity, but most of the authors’ identities are either not publicly disclosed or are vigorously protected. Attempts to speculate on identities is discouraged with threats of bans – threats and bans are the standard way of discouraging questioning anything to do with authors.

Apart from Prentice who are the authors? They state:

Why don’t you say who you are?

Some of the authors here use their real names, but others choose to blog anonymously for a variety of reasons. Some of us have professional reasons for doing so, others of us are reluctant to expose ourselves to the kind of personal threats sometimes made online.

While there is no formal disclosure some details about authors have dribbled out over time.

Mike Smith is Prentice’s co-trustee of The Standard. Until recently he worked in David Shearer’s leader’s office.

mickysavage (Greg Presland) is closely associated with David Cunliffe via his New Lynn electorate committee and recently became known as the lawyer behind Cunliffe’s secret donations trust.

Ben Clark stood for Labour last election and is the brother of MP David Clark.

Stephanie Rodgers is “a member of the Ohariu LEC and campaign team I’m obviously very biased, but Ginny is a fabulous candidate and a wonderful person.”

Geoff has started to post and you can get an idea of where he’s coming from in Judith vs John and Moving Collins On.

Bunji is relatively mild but does his bit for the team. See John Key challenged!

Zetetic is unlikely to have been used by Trevor Mallard as some have alleged but has  fairly obvious intent. See Cabinet Club.

The ‘Eddie’ handle seems to be in remission at the moment but had strong hints of various internal hands.

Karol is currently the odd one out claiming to be a Green supporter.

James Henderson seems to have retired from The Standard but had close Green connections (which may have turned red again).

And the author messages are not to be messed with. Criticising authors is severely frowned on, proving them wrong usually invites wrath commonly leads to being banned.

Prentice illustrates this in his latest thread.

[lprent: That may be your opinion - and I'd say that it is impossible to tell. Go and raise your pet lies, assertions and conspiracies on your own post on your own blog or comment in Open Mike. Don't do it on mine, they really are just a diversion troll.

My post is almost entirely about David Farrar and Cameron Slater being a complete dickheads stalking Cunliffe with silly picture posts. ]

‘Diversion troll’ is Lyn-speak for questioning his bull and bluster.

But the post isn’t about the image it is about Farrar and the bloated moron being dickhead stalkers. So this is your warning. Try Open Mike for conspiracy theories.. or return to the banned… ]

Lyn is the only one who can refer to images apparently.

[lprent: I didn't say that you did. I said that David Farrar did? Is this a sockpuppet? But you didn't heed my warnings about what I the author considered this post to be about. Do not repeat the offense for which you got warned - banned 2 months. That is one fast way to de-amnesty yourself. ]

Lyn-speak translated means that if you say something they don’t want said you will be banned.

[deleted]

[lprent: Banned 4 weeks. ]

That one may have been fair enough.

As the most widely-read and influential leftwing blog in New Zealand, The Standard is a great platform to get yourself heard.

Only if you toe the line and are accepted as one of the comrades.

But there has been a significant change of tone at The Standard over the last few weeks. The resident trolls are protected from this sort of moderation for obvious reasons, anyone deemed a threat to Labour can be freely attacked, abused and harassed.

Some trolls are specialists at trying to initiate bans on people they decide are not welcome. They frequently make things up (lie). And the end game is for Prentice to use an excuse to ban them.

When Prentice posts about sockpuppets and desperation wry and black comedy (inadvertent) come to mind. There’s plenty of same old, but it seems to be deteriorating into sad farce. Debate on the left is dire.

The abuse will continue until the disillusioned absentee voters return to Labour. /wry

UMR poll on Jones not Labour

Yesterday  Whale Oil and today Kiwiblog have had posts claiming a poll asking a question on Shane Jones was done by Labour, speculating it was with an aim of attacking  Jones.

Whale Oil: Labour getting ready to shaft Shane Jones?

Kiwiblog:  Are Labour planning smear campaign on Shane Jones?

The poll question:

Which of the following is closer to your own view even if not quite right?

o Shane Jones delivered amusing one liners but his political career was accident prone and did not amount to much. The most attention he got was for using his parliamentary credit card to pay for pornographic movies.
o Shane Jones was one of the few politicians who tells it like it is and with his attacks on Countdown has been the most effective Labour politician this year. He will be a huge loss to Labour especially amongst Maori and blue collar voters.

Russell Brown says that it definitely wasn’t Labour who commissioned the poll.

The “UMR polling commissioned by Labour” being touted by Whaleoil is nothing of the kind. Not commissioned, received or paid for by Labour.

Not that I’d be hanging out for a correction. Just saying he’s firmly holding the wrong end of the stick.

And no, I didn’t get that information from Labour either. I’m surprised they haven’t made it clear though.

I asked him if he knew who.

No, but definitely not Labour. I would naturally *like* to know :-)

Not the first time whoever-it-is has been mistaken for internal labour polling, I gather.

More tweets on this as David Farrar checks it out:

What is your source? Will update if it is someone on the record.

Considering the same poll was testing potential policies for Labour, I’d be sceptical short of an on the reecord denial.

And Russell responded:

Or you could offer some evidence that it is what you say it is. It usually works that way.

Fair call. Then @publicaddress

But no, sorry, it’s a confidential source, but one I’m very confident is correct.

@dpfdpf

I think one can use common sense. Who would want to poll on Shane Jones except media and Labour?

Considering the same poll was testing potential policies for Labour, I’d be sceptical short of an on the reecord denial.

All it takes is for Labour to say on the record “Not us”.

Well whoever it is, is presumably the same person or party polling on a $3 billion a year carbon tax.

So who would have the inclination and the money to do apparently multiple polls that look like they are Labour orientated?

I wonder if NZ First commission polls. The Conservative and Internet parties are both known to commission polling.

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