Bryce Edwards on David Clark

Bryce Edwards writes on Labour MP David Clark in this week’s D Scene – Rookie MP takes another leap up the rankings.

He notes Clark’s rise from being placed at 49 on Labour’s party list in 2011 (remarkably that was lower than the 43 that the person he won the Dunedin North candidancy over, Glenda Alexander, was placed) up to number 12 on Labour’s bench.

Clark has been lucky, and he’s also done well with some things, and as a consequence has been talked up and praised…

In parliament and the media Clark has been a top performer. He speaks well, and is an exceptionally good spokesperson for Labour.

It could be said it’s not hard to shine amongst a lacklustre Labour caucus but most of the praise is deserved. His speech in the House on marriage equality was top stuff.

Some might grumble that he merely repeats the party’s carefully crafted talking points but that’s the nature of parliamentary politics.

I’ve been one who has criticised him for being a loyal reciter. His speaking and especially his “opposition” attacks have often lacked substance, he has been caught short on policy detail, he has made basic mistakes (for example confusing revenue with profit when talking about taxing multinationals) and he repeats dishonest claims.

But he is doing what he has been trained to do for his party.

Edwards wonders where Clark fits in the political scene.

Ideologically it’s still difficult to see what Clark stands for beyond then obvious tribal Labour policies.

Clark’s main political focus – at least in campaigning – has been on inequality and poverty.

Yes, I’ve seen that. One of his favourite election campaign stories was about visiting a cold house and seeing a poor hungry child with a runny nose.

I have no doubt that Clark genuinely wants to try and do something about inequality and the plight of the poor.

So where is Clark ideologically within the Labour caucus? He’s notably close to deputy leader Grant Robertson, who is relatively left-wing, but also incredibly pragmatic.

His vote to support marriage equality surprised some, he was expected to have a more conservative religious view but Clark seemed to be listening to and representing the younger demographic on this.

Like Robertson, Clark is increasingly famous for being able to get on with anyone – he’s widely described as a nice guy.

I’ve described him that way.

In the left-right leadership split between Cunliffe and Shearer, Clark was on the Shearer side, and his latest large  leap up the leadership ranking might be seen to owe something to this.

I think his leap was partly due to loyalty (and it seems that Cunliffe supporters were punished)…

But more than this, Clark is just the sort of politician that Labour desperately needs, because the party has failed to rejuvenate in recent years.

…but he is also one of the few options within the Labour caucus for presenting a fresh new face with a reasonable degree of competency.

Clark is very much the modern look for Labour nice but not too radical.

The same as Labour tried to promote Shearer but they don’t seem to be doing nice any more.

Nice but not too radical – Clark would be like brussel sprouts at a children’s birthday party amongst the bitter and not-so-nice Labour activists at The Standard!

Time will tell whether he’s got the actual substance to fulfil the big predictions being made for him.

Yes. He has made the start that any new politician would love to have, partly through ability and personality, partly through luck, and partly through timing (a very weak Labour).

Now Clark will have to develop substance to live up to high expectations.

And just as important, he needs to avoid being owned by the machine as Davide Shearer appears to be. Shearer promised to be a fresh new sort of politician, but he seems to have old school tentacles all over him.

Clark has the time and opportunity to become his own political personality and a strong performer for Labour – and for New Zealand. We’ll see if he develops the depth of policy knowledge to be a heavy hitter, and if he has the strength of character to be true to himself.

UPDATE: Edwards’ column is also now posted at his blog – David Clark: The political rise of ‘a nice guy’

David Clark: more (or less) on the minimum wage

David Clark (Labour MP for Dunedin North) has come up with a number for the likely cost of increasing the minimum wage, and also makes some more statements in Views split on minimum wage in the ODT.

The Clark points:

  • $427 million as the most likely cost

I’m seeking clarification on whether that just covers wages increasing to $15, or if it also takes into account wages currently on $15 that would get pushed up.

  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would ensure hard-working families could put healthy food on the table.

There’s no doubt increasing the minimum wage would help some families (and some single people and childless couples) but “hard-working” and “healthy food on the table” is waffle.

  • Making the minimum wage $15 an hour will be a big help to about 264,000 workers and their families.

The amount of help will vary as those already earning close to $15 will only get a small increase. There is no indication of the average increase.

  • The $13.50 an hour was well below Australia’s minimum of an equivalent $NZ19.92.

That’s an issue and one of the reasons for a Kiwi exodus to Australia. But increased costs may lead to job losses, so Australian wages may be even more enticing.

  • A higher minimum wage encourages employers to engage in industries with high productivity.

Does that mean employers pull out of industries with lower productivity? And less productive workers become unemployed non-workers?

  • It means employers can’t get wealthy off the back of cheap labour.

Union-speak.

  • An economist could be eligible for a Nobel prize if he or she could establish a direct link between putting up the minimum wage and increasing unemployment.

You don’t need to be an economist nor a Nobel prize winner to see the distinct possibility that forcing business costs up in very difficult economic times is likely to lead to job losses.

  • The proposed change will not affect most employers and smart employers who already pay a living wage will be better off as it will stop less scrupulous firms undercutting them.

More union-speak.

Clark’s response to business group concerns:

He dismissed the arguments put forward by John Scandrett (Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive) and John Christie (Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive), saying BusinessNZ was running the “same line” throughout New Zealand.

Clark is running a few lines too, some of which seem to be well rehearsed union lines. He doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of business realities.

It seems very unlikely the minimum wage bill will get past it’s first reading in parliament.

But  Clark’s dissing of Dunedin business leaders and his anti business rhetoric does not look good for MP-business relationships in Dunedin. Nor New Zealand.

Labour embarrass David Clark

David Clark, Dunedin North MP, has his first big interview today on Q+A. He generally responded to questions with well rehearsed phrases. Except two questions. After questions about the $15 per hour minimum wage (Q+A transcript):

SHANE           So how much will it cost employers?
 
DAVID            What will it cost employers? Well, it depends who you are as an employer. Most employers and most small and medium businesses pay their employees more than the minimum wage. They understand-
 
SHANE           So the overall cost?
 
DAVID            Well, we don’t know exactly how much it will cost. Um, we understand-
 
SHANE           You haven’t costed it?
 
DAVID            I haven’t costed it myself. I understand there has been work done around it.
 
SHANE           So Labour’s criticism and attacks on John Key last week over the bonus shares scheme about him not costing it, it sounds a bit hypocritical

And then on Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac Days:

SHANE           And how much is this going to cost? Have you costed this policy?
 
DAVID            The government says that it will cost 13 cents per worker, per day.
 
SHANE           No, has Labour costed this?
 
DAVID            I’ve seen all of their costs, and I’ve done my own calculations on it which suggests it will be considerably less than that. It may even have a net positive effect, and that’s because you get a boost to domestic tourism, you also get more productive workers from having rests. But anyway, even if it costs 13 cents per worker, per day, as the government estimates – and the government officials acknowledge themselves it’s likely to be overestimated – we don’t think that’s too much to pay to make sure people get to spend times with their families. Hard-working Kiwis deserve all the public holidays they get.

Clark followed up the interview with a press release:

$15 minimum wage a winner for workers – Clark

That is full of carefully crafted phrases, but no costings. The Herald report on the interview and aren’t flattering:

Labour MP clueless on minimum wage price tag

Labour MP David Clark has admitted he doesn’t know how much it will cost employers if the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour, despite sponsoring a bill to do just that.

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was a start to fixing some of the problems, he said.

But he admitted the cost to employers had not yet been calculated.

When asked what the overall cost would be, he said Labour did not know exactly how much it would cost.

He then admitted he had not costed it, but understood there had “been work done around it”.

“I think that we’ve seen that the millions of the dollars that it will put into the economy of raising the minimum wage will actually have a positive boost, it will have an economic advantage. So we’re not talking about costs here. We’re talking about boosting the economy,” he said.

Shades of Phil Goff’s election campaign embarrassment with “show me the money”.

Clark is a first term MP, have to cut him some slack. But he has work experience at Treasury, and is Labour’s shadow spokesperson for Revenue. He should be able to manage some numbers.

He’ll have to take this on the chin and hopefully learn from it. But it’s symptomatic of a much bigger problem. A Labour problem.

Labour selected Clark as candidate for a safe Labour seat, everyone expected he only needed to turn up to win Dunedin North after Pete Hodgson’s retirement.

I campaigned against Clark. He repeated carefully learnt lines at every meeting. He was elected. In Labour’s ledership contest after the election I heard David Parker recite some of the exact same lines Clark had been using.

Eight months later, on Q+A this morning and in his press release, Clark is still repeating the same lines. What’s going on going on here? He’s been an MP now for more than half a year.

It’s not entirely Clark’s fault. He seems to be doing what’s been asked of him by his party. He’s a reliable repeater.

And Labour are still running their election campaign. They put a lot into opposing asset sales during the campaign, it was their main election focus. They are still campaigning against asset sales. They are promoting anti asset sale petition. Labour MPs still use No Asset Sales avatars in social media.

And at the same time Clark’s minimum wage bill was drawn from the ballot Clayton Cosgrove had his anti asset sale bill drawn. That bill is designed to fail, it’s simply another campaign continuation.

Clark was lucky having his Monday-ising bill drawn from the ballot several months ago. He was lucky it got automatic support from Peter Dunne as it fitted with United Future policy.

Clark was lucky having his minimum wage bill drawn from the ballot this week.

Clark was unlucky that Labour handed him a lemon bill without checking the juice.

Labour selected Clark, they have groomed him as a faithful reciter, they helped him with Member’s bills.

And I guess they submitted the $15 bill to the ballot in the hope that it could be used as a campaign extension.

But campaign slogans won’t get this bill through. It would probably have been doomed anyway, adding costs to government and to employers in the current economic climate would have been rejected.

That doesn’t save the pile embarrassment Labour have dumped Clark in. Even if they do some number work and ‘show the house the money’ when this bill has it’s first reading it will be a dry lemon by then.

I don’t know if Labour are still campaigning from last year, or if they are early campaigning for 2014. But if they want to present themselves as a credible new government then I hope they’ve put a bit less time and resources into futile campaigning and a lot more effort into the basics.

David, your party has let you down here. Lesson learnt. It’s time you ditched Dr Slogan and started thinking and speaking for yourself.

The Kiwiblog candidate

MP for Dunedin North and Kiwiblog?

My number one focus as a candidate in this election is building a better way of representing Dunedin. This is proceeding well, cross party and multi-MP support has been assured for establishing a strong Dunedin democratic voice. At candidate meetings the best response I have received has been for promoting people of Dunedin combining to have a much stronger city voice.

This will change the way Dunedin does democracy, and with interest from elsewhere in the country it has the potential to change the way we do democracy in New Zealand, with a much better online and in-person communication between the electorate and the elected.

My involvement after the election will continue as an activist politician or a political activist – that’s when my campaign steps up a notch.

But I don’t and I won’t forget where much of this has developed – on Kiwiblog.

I have been the most prolific commenter on Kiwiblog over the past few years, and have often been criticised for that. I’ve been using Kiwiblog as a tool for my aims. I’ve been involved in sometimes protracted and heated ‘debate’, ironically having often been called a fence sitter by those I have battled with the most.

I acknowledge I sometimes haven’t taken a strong position on issues, that’s because I’ve been promoting discussions and learning from responses, unlike some commenters who start with an opiniion and won’t budge from that.

Skills (and knowledge) I have learnt on Kiwiblog will help substantially in my political quest. Many of the ideas and opinions – and encouragement and support – have helped me get to where I am now.

I don’t agree with everyone on Kiwiblog and everyone on Kiwiblog don’t agree with or like or support me – but that’s how it should be. We need to understand that we can only move forward accepting there will always be differences, and compromise, pragamatism – and democratic process – are all essentials. None of us can rule the world exactly as we might wish.

I’ve been blasted and abused often – sometimes fairly and sometimes nastily. This can be useful as a reality check but it has also helped me to develop a thick skin, an essential if you are to survive in the political arena. One of the biggest challenges to being successful in politics is to be able to deal with or deflect criticism but to maintain an open mind and open ears.

Earlier this year I started to firm up on what action I would take, after realising that going round and round in blog circles moaning about everything that was wrong was going to achieve nothing. The only way of changing things is to actually do things to encourage or force change.

So I’ve made some decisions and taken steps towards doing something. I’m already very pleased with what I have been able to achieve, whatever the election result I am succeeding.

There’s still an outside chance of me becoming an MP, and I’ll work through until election day looking at ways of achieving that – if I become an MP it would not only rock the political world, it would add impetus to what I’m doing. Some might see these most of these as lotto dreams but look at the possibilities:

  • United Future gets 6.2% and I get in on the list (matching the UF 2002 result so not out of the question)
  • United Future gets a few MPs in (quite possible) and I win Dunedin North
  • Dunne wins Ohariu and I win Dunedin North
  • Dunne loses Ohariu and I win Dunedin North

The last few are unlikely but they are possible, just like it’s possible for Susan Boyle to become world famous, just like it’s possible for a penguin to be the biggest news for a month, just like it’s possible for Nek Minute to spread around the world web wide.

In our  democracy any of those are possible if enough voters decide to ditch the same old and make a real difference. We just need to believe we have the power to make a difference, at least once every three years.

I’m going to keep exploring possibilities and keep pushing for change. Much of this will have to be done person to person, but social media and blogs are becoming a powerful force – waiting to be harnessed more effectively.

Kiwiblog has played a major part in me getting to where I am now. It (and other online communities) will play an important part for me as I keep pushing the boundaries of politics for ordinary people with an interest.

My main goal is to build a better democracy in Dunedin and spread it from there. Kiwiblog (as long as DPF allows) will continue to be an integral part of this campaign.

I’ve come a long way in six months, it’s now starting to come together and gather momentum. I’d love to become MP for Dunedin North and Kiwiblog, but whatever happens in the election this is just a step along the way to changing from grass roots up – and from silicon roots up.

MMP options

Amongst the mad dash to an election we are also supposed to consider our voting system.

  • The first question asks whether you want to keep Mixed Member Proportional (MMP, which is the voting system we use at the moment) or whether you want to change to another voting system.
  • The second questionasks you which of four other voting systems you would choose if New Zealand decides to change from MMP. The four alternative voting systems you can choose from are called:
    • First Past the Post (FPP);
    • Preferential Voting (PV);
    • Single Transferable Vote (STV); and
    • Supplementary Member (SM).

The answer to that is easy for me, MMP enables the most representation of views and parties. Better to improve what is working reasonably well rather than introduce something new that will have it’s own deficiencies.

What will happen as a result?

If at least half of voters opt to keep MMP, there will be an independent review of MMP in 2012 to recommend any changes that should be made to the way it works. The Electoral Referendum Act specifies that the Electoral Commission must review:

  • The 5% party vote threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
  • The one electorate seat threshold for a party to be eligible for allocation of list seats;
  • The effects of population change on the ratio of electorate seats to list seats;
  • The effect of a party’s candidates winning more seats than the party would be entitled as a result of the party vote;
  • The capacity of a person to be both a constituency candidate and a list candidate;
  • A party’s ability to determine the order of candidates on its party list and the inability of voters to rank list candidates in order of preference;
  • Other matters as referred to it by the Minister of Justice or the House of Representatives.

The size of Parliament and Maori representation will not be reviewed, but the Commission may consider any other aspects of the MMP voting system. The Commission must report back to the Minister of Justice by 31 October 2012.

It’s useful to look ahead at these options if that’s the option we are thinking of deciding on.

Threshhold

I think the 5% threshold has proven to be too high and excludes significant numbers of voters. Last election NZ First got 4% of the vote and missed out, four parties got fewer overall party votes but got a total of 12 seats between them.

Option 1 – reduce the threshold to 4, 3, 2?
Option 2 – make the threshold the % of votes of the lowest polling party that gets a seat?

Determining order of list

While giving voters the ability to rank the lists sounds good in theory I don’t see how it will work in practice – it would end up forcing on a party a mix of candidates that don’t best represent whatb it stands for.

When losing electorate candidates getting in on the list

One of the biggest complaints about MMP is when losing electorate candidates still get into parliament via the list. Some electorates, for example Ohariu and Dunedin North, have in addition to their winning eledctorate MP have got another three MPs from this list.

Stopping losiong electorate candidates from getting in on the list would make some electorate contests farcical. For example in Dunedin North Michael Woodhouse (National) and Metiria Turei (Greens) are assured of being list MPs so would not risk standing for the electorate, making the electorate contest even less important.

Tail wagging the dog

This is mostly myth – the amount of power in a coalition is usually equated to the number of party MPs.

Small parties that don’t get into parliament dream of being able to wag the dog but never get the chance to see how hard it is in practice.

List MPs doing nothing

Another myth – there is as much chance of getting an underperforming electorate MP as there is a list MP. Many list MPs are virtual electorate MPs anyway, with electorate offices and electorate duties.

Tweak MMP perhaps, use better for sure

I think some tweaks may improve MMP, but the biggest improvements will come from voters being smarter about how they use their MMP votes. I’ll discuss that in my next post.

http://www.referendum.org.nz/about

Dunedin deserves better

Dunedin deserves better than two party loyal Labour MPs.

Next week I’ll be announcing how Dunedin can get better. It’s a simple choice.
Better representation.
Better political attention for Dunedin.
Better value for Dunedin votes.

Should Dunedin North elect a spin doctor?

This really saddens me but I guess it’s not unexpected.

Dr Clark is expected to win Dunedin North easily (I’ll be trying to convince the electorate it can do much better). I’d really like the Dunedin North MP to be someone who will work hard for the electorate. This is a further indication Dr Clark is going to be a devoted party man instead. As posted on Red Alert:

Dunedin cuts – CYF spindoctors stretch truth

Dr David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North

My previous posts about the cuts to frontline child protection services in Dunedin have attracted a response.  Unfortunately the response is clearly the work of CYF’s spindoctors.

I am saddened to see CYF dodge questions regarding front line job-cuts in Dunedin.  The CYF spokesperson describes Otago and Southland as having “more social workers per caseload” than other areas, and talks about deciding whether vacated positions will be filled – according to workload in the region.

This is classic doublespeak.  As positions are vacated in Otago and Southland, they are not being replaced; a straight shooter would call this job-cuts.  Frontline positions are being axed. Vulnerable children are at risk.

Tragically, need for CYF services is in high demand.  Our stagnant economy has put increased pressure on Dunedin families.  Can CYF confirm they have as many front line staff in Dunedin now as they had a year ago?  Or better still, provide credible evidence that our most vulnerable children are no longer at risk?  Of course they can’t.  This makes me angry.  Under National’s direction, CYF are spending money on spindoctors.  That money should be spent on staff at the coal-face.

A dizzy post – Dr Spin is already learning his party craft.

 

United sensibility

I’m going to stick my neck out here.

Whether National are returned to power as widely expected, or Labour pull off a policy coup that exceeds all expectations, we need other party options in parliament. Most options are not looking great.

  • Act seem to have lurched from strongarmed upheaval to creative blunder.
  • NZ First, especially at leadership level, looks well past it’s “use by” date.
  • Maori/Mana is at an interesting stage and caters for a specific demographic.
  • The Green Party has it’s place, should keep it’s place, but that’s more as a niche party

There’s one other party that is likely to be in parliament after the election. United Future has quietly operated, mostly beneath the media radar, steadily and with some success. Peter Dunne is criticised as being sensible, moderate, and willing to work with the government of the day.

Your NZ was set up to cater for an obvious need for a responsive, more representative party, especially in the New Zealand heartland. The concept has been well received. Other small parties are promoting varieties of better democracy.

Good ideas, even though they obviously have appeal, will struggle to get they attention they need to achieve anything. Fragments of sensibility will be far more successful if they are combined into a united force.

A solid unifying structure is already in place, with a sensible leader. It makes sense to me to support Peter Dunne and United Future as I feel they are the best option for a strong non-ideological common sense centre party.

I personally want to pledge my support for United Future. I’m standing for the Dunedin North electorate and am setting up a new model of regional representation. If successful it makes sense to me that I work with with United Future as much as possible, allying with a party with compatible aims will give me an opportunity to represent Dunedin North even better in parliament.

It’s time for the quiet achievers, working for the ordinary people of the country, to combine their strengths and offer a real, sensible alternative, united.

Dunedin’s political doldrums

In both Dunedin North and Dunedin South Labour candidates are expected to stroll to victory with minimum attention. Who cares? Dunedin electorate votes count for little because there is no chance of affecting the outcome. This is common in many other safe seats around the country.

In Dunedin North Pete Hodgson is retiring, leaving a 7,000 vote majority for his replacement to play with. Labour only lost the electorate once (1975-78) since 1928.

Is it going to be the same old boring campaign this year? Will anyone care who their new MP is?

There are actually four Dunedin North MPs in parliament, as well as Hodgson there are three list MPs that contested the last election – Woodhouse (National), Turei (Greens), and Calvert (Act). So Dunedin should be overwhelmed by influence. Not.

How often do we hear about what they are doing for the city? How often are we asked how we want to be represented? Even if they are slaving away for us in silence, and not for their parties, that’s poor communication. Today Hodgson had a letter published in the Otago Daily Times, but that was just in response to a critical ODT editorial.

If Labour keep the seat in November as expected, what will that give the city? Nothing more than someone working for the No party in opposition?

Do voters deserve more? If they want to choose more.

Under MMP it would be easy for electorates to take the initiative off the parties. All it would take is for them to decide, similar to Epsom, that they wanted their votes to count for much more than virtually nothing. Dunedin electorates could become influential, even pivotal, and Dunedin voices could be much more effective in parliament. All the people need to do is choose to be smart with their vote.

Your NZ acting leader appointed

Your NZ has appointed Jason Ashley as acting leader. This enables Your NZ to be managed until membership has been built up and candidates have been chosen. In August party leadership will be democratically elected from party list candidates.

Jason will also manage the formation of the party list. Your NZ is currently advertising on Trademe Jobs for more people interested in being on the party list. Response to that has been very good.

Your NZ founder Pete George was recently confirmed as a candidate for the Dunedin North Electorate. He sees the appointment of an acting leader as an important step in setting up the structure of the party.

Pete will oversee the establishment of other electorates for Your NZ, and once that is done he will be focussing on the Dunedin North campaign. Details will soon be released of the model of interactive democracy that will be set up.

Interest in Your NZ is spreading, by word of mouth and on social networks, and is proving research that indicated there are many people ready to look for a real alternative to the established parties.

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