Could a minority Labour lead a coalition?

Cunliffe’s Labour has shown that it wants to contest the election alone and not alongside the Greens. Part of the reason for that is to keep options open with both Greens and NZ First, and acknowledges the reality that NZ First could decide if the next government is National or Labour led.

Labour has also indicated over time that they see themselves as the major party of the left, even to the extent of implying they are deserving the majority of the votes from the centre-left and left.

But the way things are shaping up, especially if the Internet Party picks up some if the votes from the left, Labour may struggle to hold it’s current share.

Labour have been polling in the low thirties in the polls, as they did leading up to the last election. They ended up getting 27% in 2011.

The following spread of support is not out of the question:

  • Labour 25%
  • Greens 15%
  • NZ First 10%
  • Mana/Internet Party 4%

It would be enough to form a Government should NZ First go that way, or if NZ First stayed on the cross benches. But Labour would have a minority in that mix, 25% to 29%.

That would be an very interesting scenario.

Could we have a minority Labour Cabinet?

 

 

Cannabis law reform alive overseas, dead as a cold turkey here

Cannabis law changes are happening around the world, including in some US states. But the chances of anything happening on it here in the foreseeable future look slim.

The use and abuse of cannabis and the associated legal and criminal issues surrounding cannabis in New Zealand are substantial, but politicians don’t want to go there.

National are not likely to consider let alone allow any relaxing of the laws related to cultivation and use of cannabis.

David Cunliffe has said Labour are not interested in doing anything.

“They can put on the table what they want to put on the table, but Labour’s policy is not to decriminalise cannabis,” says Mr Cunliffe.

‘They’ is the Greens but they don’t seem very interested. From Labour, Greens crack over cannabis views:

If the Green Party had its way it would immediately allow for medicinal marijuana and legal action for violent offences would be prioritised over possession.

The next step is decriminalisation with a legal age limit of 18.

For one party it’s the only issue, and before joining the Greens Ms Turei was a member of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party.

“It won’t be one of our major priorities, but it is our policy and we’re not ashamed of that,” she says.

And when interviewed on The Nation last week Russel Norman also sounded less than enthusiastic.

And that could include carrying on fracking, now decriminalisation of cannabis. We had Colin Craig on here, he spoke to Simon a few weeks ago – we asked him this, have you ever smoked a joint? Have you ever smoked a joint?

Yeah, yeah, of course I’ve smoked a joint.

Yeah, so decriminalisation of cannabis, that’s a Green party policy, it’s been a Green party policy down the ages. Will you pursue that in a Labour/Green government?

It’s still part of our policy and so whether it’s part of the priorities – so what we do is before each election is we announce our ten point priority list, right? And we did it last time and we’ll do it again this time and so in any post-election negotiations, you’ll know the what are the key areas we’re going to prioritise. So, I doubt –

So where will that be?

Yeah, yes. So I doubt – we haven’t decided it, right? But I doubt that decriminalisation will be one of the top ten. But, that’s up to the party to decide, but I doubt that will be.

Sure, ok. So, decriminalisation, you’re not into it really. But the TPP -

Well, no Paddy. You can paraphrase it like that, but it doesn’t mean that we -

But let’s move on…

Not a priority and Norman virtually ruled it out of any coalition negotiations where Greens would have most chance of making something happen.

With none of the three largest parties interested in initiating anything on cannabis law reform, and no sign of any small parties being interested, the chances if anything happening look as alive as a cold turkey.

 

Who would Greens want as deputy PM?

If Greens get to form the next government with Labour they would presumably be pushing for a high position for one of their co-leaders., especially going by the latest poll result that has them up 3.3 to 13% while Labour are down 5.9 to 29.5%.

These results aren’t promising for a left leaning coalition, and NZ First are in the danger zone at 3.6% (down 0.3), but if support rose in similar proportions to this result Labour would have a little more than double the number of MPs to the Greens. That would make a good case for scoring a deputy PM position.

Who would the Greens put forward as their top choice?

Yesterday Greens released their ‘initial party list’ for the upcoming election. While the list positions are subject to possible member initiated change…

“The list we are releasing today is by no means final. It is just a useful guide for members all over the country to use when making their own personal selection.”

The initial list is put together by delegates and candidates who attended the party’s February candidate conference. Delegates were able to put candidates through their paces and evaluate their performance. The initial list now goes to party members nation-wide to vote on. The Green Party uses STV voting.

the current pecking order is:

The list:

1 Turei, Metiria

2 Norman, Russel

Would Greens use the final list position to determine who was promoted for a top Government position? They could try to get co-deputy PM spots but that may be difficult to negotiate, it means Greens would hold two of the top three government positions.

The latest NZ Herald Digipoll ranks the Green leaders differently. Obviously it polls across the spectrum.

Preferred PM:

  • Russel Norman 5.2% (up 2.2)
  • Metiria Turei 0.7% (down 0.1%)

There’s a clear public preference for Norman over Turei.

Deputy PM will be acting PM at times when the Prime Minister is out of the country.

There is nothing in the Green Party constitution about how they would negotiate coalition government positions.

Constitution of The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 4 June 2012.pdf

 

 

Do we want a new flag?

If John Key is returned as Prime Minister in a National led government he is promising to look at whether we want to change our flag.

And both the Green Party and Labour have said they would keep the same process suggested by Key should they form the next government.

Key  announced it this morning and explained a preferred process for selecting a possible alternative then deciding by referendum whether to change or keep the current flag in a Speech at Victoria University.

For more than a hundred years the New Zealand flag has served us well, and we in turn have served it well.

It has given us an identity.

We have given it our loyalty.

But the current flag represents the thinking by and about a young country moving from the 1800s to the 1900s. A time before commercial air travel. A time when we had less of a role in the Pacific, and a time before Asia registered in our consciousness. That was a time before the rise of superpowers and before we had forged a formidable reputation on the battlefields of Europe. It was prior to the first tour by the New Zealand Rugby Union to the UK, and when our forebears thought their colonial protector would always be there for their descendants.   

When you think about it, those who had a hand in the flag’s design did well to include symbols that have endured for more than a century.

But it’s my belief, and I think one increasingly shared by many New Zealanders, that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.  

The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom.

We retain a strong and important constitutional link to the monarchy and I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go. Nor could we or would we dispose of the cultural legacy which gave us a proud democracy, a strong legal system and a rich artistic heritage.

Each of these we have evolved and interpreted in our own way as an independent nation.

I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag.

Some people say that we should look at the flag only if we’re also reviewing our wider constitutional arrangements.

I don’t agree.

Our status as a constitutional monarchy continues to serve us well.

It’s an arrangement that provides stability, continuity and keeps our head of State above party politics.

However, this country, the way we see ourselves in the world and the way others see us, has changed dramatically in the past century. Our flag does not reflect those changes.

I acknowledge that New Zealanders have a range of views on the idea of changing the flag. I also acknowledge that significant change can be difficult and unsettling for some people so this is not a debate to undertake lightly, or quickly.

But my personal view is that it’s time our flag reflected that we are a sovereign and successful nation that rightfully takes its place among developed economies in the 21st Century.

It’s my contention that when we engage internationally, in forums ranging from secondary school debating to the United Nations, or from age-grade representative sports teams to the Olympics, we should be represented by a flag that is distinctly New Zealand’s.

A flag that is only New Zealand’s.

A flag that is readily identified by New Zealanders, and with New Zealanders.

I believe the current flag is not that flag.

I believe that not only can we do better, but that this is the right time to get on with it.

At the same time, I acknowledge there may be many New Zealanders who want to retain the existing flag, and that will be one option.

I have given careful thought to this.

Back in 1965, Canada changed its flag from one that, like ours, also had the Union Jack in the corner, and replaced it with the striking symbol of modern Canada that all of us recognise and can identify today.

Fifty years on, I can’t imagine many Canadians would, if asked, choose to go back to the old flag.

That old flag represented Canada as it was once, rather than as it is now. Similarly, I think our flag represents us as we were once, rather than as we are now.

By law, the flag can be changed by a simple majority of Parliament but, as I’ve previously said, I do not believe that such a decision is one that MPs should take for themselves.

A flag that unites all New Zealanders should be selected by all New Zealanders.

This decision is bigger than party politics.

I would like us all to talk about it, but I do not think that it should dominate or distract from the other debates that occur in an election year.

We have a lot to do, a lot of ideas, and a lot to talk about, so the Cabinet has agreed that we should look at the steps that New Zealand would need to follow if it were to formally consider whether to change the flag. However, we will leave the real work until the next term of Parliament.

That also means that it will be under our existing flag that we will commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

At dawn on April 25, 2015, here, and on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and at New Zealand diplomatic posts around the world, we will lower to half-mast the same flag under which our forefathers fought so valiantly, so far away, a hundred years ago.

It is under the existing flag that we will remember the sacrifices made by New Zealanders in battle, and the sacrifices made by their families.

I do not under-estimate the significance of the flag to New Zealand’s servicemen and women and their families, but being respectful of our history does not lock us permanently in the past.

Organisations like our armed forces have undergone significant change over the generations. What does not change is their willingness to defend on behalf of all New Zealanders the values that define us and which we cherish.

Those values and our commitment to uphold them will not be compromised or eroded in any way by a change of flag. From time to time, countries do change their flags. If we do it, we won’t be the first and we won’t be the last.

If New Zealanders choose a new flag, it will serve us in times of celebration, and in times of mourning.

It will be the flag that is hoisted at a medal ceremony as we celebrate the achievement of an individual or team that has done our country proud.

And it will be the flag that is lowered to half-mast as we mourn together the passing of a New Zealander who has made a significant contribution to the affairs of our nation.

It will be the flag that serves us on every occasion because, in the end, the flag is a symbol of our unity. Our allegiance to it symbolises the bond we share for each other, and for this country that we have the good fortune to call home.

If we choose well, it will become internationally recognisable in a way that our current flag is not, despite more than a hundred years of use.

As I say, change can be difficult but it’s also remarkable how quickly the new becomes familiar.

A flag can never be all things to all people. As we consider alternative designs, there might be some people who want a stronger representation of our Maori heritage, or of our flora and fauna. The colours we might choose to represent us are, right now, far from certain.

Long decades of sweat and effort by our sportsmen and women in many codes over countless competitions give the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity, and a head start in our national consciousness.

For example, it’s our silver fern, rather than our flag, that’s etched in the crosses marking the final resting place of all New Zealanders who are interred in Commonwealth War Graves overseas.

Interestingly, it’s the maple leaf that’s etched in the crosses of Canada’s fallen in those same cemeteries.

I admit to liking the silver fern but I’m also open to other ideas and designs.

So I come to this debate advocating change, and with a personal leaning towards the silver fern, but I also want to listen to the debate, and see the possibilities before making up my mind on my preferred design.

I urge others to do the same.

For people who have doubts or concerns, I want to give a clear assurance and commitment that retaining the current flag is a very possible outcome of this process, and there will be no presumption in favour of a change.

I would like us to enter this discussion with open minds and a shared sense of purpose and privilege about our task.

Most important, I think, is that the designs from which we eventually choose are unique, confident and enduring.

We want a design that says “New Zealand” in the same way that the maple leaf says “Canada”, or the Union Jack says “Britain,” without a word being spoken, or a bar of those countries’ anthems being heard.

We want a design that says “New Zealand,” whether it’s stitched on a Kiwi traveller’s backpack outside a bar in Croatia, on a flagpole outside the United Nations, or standing in a Wellington southerly on top of the Beehive every working day.

It’s really important that consideration of a new flag includes genuine input from New Zealanders. All voices need an opportunity to be heard.

It’s also important, in my view, that these discussions and debates happen outside party politics.

So next term, should I have the privilege of remaining as prime minister, soon after Parliament re-commences I will write to the leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament. I will ask them to nominate an MP to join a cross-party group to oversee the flag consideration process.

That cross-party group will have the task of recommending the best referenda process to follow. For example, it would look at the question, or questions, that would need to be asked in a referendum.

The cross-party group of MPs will also be involved in nominating New Zealanders from outside Parliament to form a steering group, which will have primary responsibility for ensuring that the public has the opportunity to engage in the debate.

One of the tasks of that steering group will be to seek submissions from the public on flag designs.

As I said, the role of the MPs’ group will be to make recommendations on the best way to proceed so I can’t give you more details about the process just yet.

But I can make the commitment that there will be genuine public engagement, including the opportunity for people to submit designs and suggestions, and that ultimately the decision on whether or not to change the flag will rest with New Zealanders themselves.

I would like to see the referendum process completed during the next Parliamentary term, so it does not intrude on the 2017 elections.

Cabinet has asked officials to give advice on the best way to set up these various processes.

Finally, I want to say that I am not putting the flag debate on the table today.

It’s already on the table, and it’s been there quite a long time.

But until now the debate’s been mostly conducted via letters to the editor, editorials, opinion polls and by a few passionate adherents of designs that some people happen to champion.

My purpose today is to say that this debate is too important for it to continue rumbling on in such a casual and ad hoc fashion.

The time has come to discuss the flag formally, carefully and respectfully, allowing all New Zealanders to have their say.

Only by doing that will we arrive at a point where we have an answer that we will all then be bound by for a long time.

If together we support a new design, then it will be with the understanding that it will serve and represent us for the rest of our lives.

If, on the other hand, we reject change then my view is that the people will have spoken and the idea should be shelved for a good long time.

I have raised this now because as Anzac Day approaches, and we turn our minds to the countdown to next year’s centenary, we will reflect on our past but also think about our future.

In my view, that’s an appropriate time to write one small but significant new chapter in our national story by re-considering the flag.

It’s my observation that each generation of New Zealanders is becoming more confident about asserting their Kiwi identity. That’s because we’re increasingly comfortable in our Kiwi skin.

When we go out in to the world, we do so with a strong sense of where we come from.

Our flag should reflect that.

I urge you all to think about it, and to have your say when the time comes.

For my part, I will embrace the opportunity for us to come up with a New Zealand flag that reflects and celebrates our New Zealand-ness, and that inspires us to do the same.

Then, I think, the flag will be serving us in the same way that we serve it.

The Green Party has quickly come out in support of this - Green Party welcomes flag decision.

The Green Party is welcoming today’s announcement by Prime Minister John Key regarding a process for reviewing the flag, and will adopt and maintain that process when there is a change of government at the next election.

“The flag is an issue for New Zealanders, but it’s appropriate that it’s not the focus of this election,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.

“When there is a change of government this election, we will also proceed with the process outlined today.

“This process looks reasonable, and it’s good that it will be treated dispassionately outside of the political realm of the election period.

“The Green Party supports a robust public conversation about changing New Zealand’s flag.”  

If National form the next government Green support would be enough for them to proceed with the flag debate process.

If Greens help Labour form a government it will depend on whether Labour agree to follow through with this with the Greens.

I personally would like to see a flag change but more importantly I think we should have a good debate, consider a possible alternative flag, and then decide whether we keep our current flag or change to a new one.

Russel Norman on Radio NZ

Russel Norman was interviewed by Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon yesterday:

Russel Norman ( 30′ 55″ )

09:09 Green party co-leader election year interview.

It’s good to get in depth interviews like this, it provides much better insights into the thinking and views of MPs than the more common sound bite and journalist constructed story coverage.

This was the third in a weekly series of party leader interviews. Previous interviews:

Election year interviews – John Key ( 29′ 50″ )

09:05 Prime Minister John Key on priorities for trying to get National a third term in office.

 

David Cunliffe – Labour party leader ( 27′ 49″ )

09:14 Labour leader looks ahead to this year’s election campaign.

 

 

 

Fundraising for defamation case – Green on Green

A letter by Russel Norman on the Green Party website asking for donations to defend himself against the defamation action being taken against him by by Colin Craig.

Donate to defend free speech

 
 
 

Kia ora,

All New Zealanders should be treated equally and with respect.

A few weeks ago I spoke at the Big Gay Out and in my speech I made some remarks about the Conservative Party leader Colin Craig’s views about women and gay people.

Now Mr Craig is taking me to court for defamation.

I am proud of the comments I made, and I stand by them.

I am proud of the record my party has advancing the rights of women and gay people.

And I believe it is vital to democracy that political leaders are able to challenge and scrutinise each others views – this robust debate is vital to a healthy democracy.

Donate to our legal fund to defend a healthy democracy – a democracy that allows the Greens and other political parties to champion the rights of all New Zealanders..

Don’t allow Mr Craig, a millionaire, to silence the Green Party and anyone else who speaks up against his party’s 1950s mind-set.

It’s not the first time Mr Craig has taken legal action to silence those that speak up against his party’s views. Our democracy is threatened by this litigious approach to silencing dissent and debate.

We need to raise $70,000. Please make a donation today.

If you want us to keep speaking up for a fairer and more compassionate New Zealand then any donation you can make will help.

By making a donation to our legal fund you’ll be part of something big – fighting for our freedom of speech.

I hope you’ll stand with me to ensure that we are not silenced by those with deep pockets and divisive agendas.

For every dollar you give, you are helping us to take an important stand.

Russel Norman

* You should know that any funds not used in the court case will go towards the Green Party’s work to create a smarter, cleaner, more compassionate New Zealand for all of us.

Metiria Turei has posted a link on Facebook and commented:

Standing up for the rights of women and the right to free speech is essential for a genuinely progressive country. If you agree, please add your name and some dollars to this defence fund. Mx

Green Party member Alan Bell responds.

Totally misguided and somewhat deceitful. Nothing to do with free speech. Russel could well have spoken about Green policy without referring to Craig.

Does the Green party so underestimate our intelligence as to infer we are unable to evaluate Craig for ourselves? Do the Greens plan to repeal the Defamation Act? Will the Greens introduce policy that means access to the courts is available to all rather than only the wealthy? Russel made his bed and should lie in it – his political stunt backfired.

As a paid up member of the Green party I expect my representatives to stand up for the rights of all NZers including women and homosexuals and respect my ability to gauge for myself the policies of other parties. Craig has a right to defend himself against defamation – I despise the man and hope his case falls over.

But I also think positing this as a defence of free speech and LGBT and womens’ rights is a load of bollocks and a stain on the integrity of the party.

MPs are are on far more than “middle income” (as Cunliffe should know) so you lot can pay for it.

Solar power surge

Solar power generating capacity is set to increase by 20.9% this year after a similar surge of 20.3% last year. In 2012 the growth was only 4.4%.

Solar developers around the world will install record capacity this year as a thriving Chinese market drives growth, a Bloomberg survey showed as manufacturers in the $102 billion industry began to return to profit.

About 44.5 gigawatts will be added globally, a 20.9 percent increase on last year’s new installations, according to the average estimate of nine analysts and companies. That’s equal to the output of about 10 atomic reactors. Last year new capacity rose by 20.3 percent, after a 4.4 percent gain in 2012.

See: Chinese Solar Growth to Underpin Record Global Expansion in 2014

This states the increase equates to about 44.4 gigawatts which is the equivalent of about ten atomic reactors. This would appear to mean power plants with multiple reactors – according to the table of power stations here reactors seem to average around 1,000 MW but most have multiple reactors with a total plant capacity ranging up to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant with seven reactors for a total capacity of 7.9 GW.

More important for reducing emissions is replacing the need for oil and coal fired power. That the increase in solar power capacity is being driven by China reflects both it’s manufacturing dominance and also it’s need for cleaner energy.

China’s industrial growth has resulted in major smog problems – see SMOG HELPED GIVE SMAUG HUGE OPENING IN CHINA.

I picked up the link to Chinese Solar Growth from a tweet from Metiria Turei. This is good news for her party’s green energy aspirations and adds weight to the usefulness of their solar energy policy announced recently – Green Party launches Solar Homes policy.

Increasing volume production of solar generators will encourage technological improvements and will help bring prices down which will make home installations a more cost effective and attractive option.

Mathers story seems odd

Just about everything about the story about the Mojo Mathers seems odd – see Taxpayer Union versus Mojo Mathers (the story has developed since then).

Summary

There was an article in the Herald on Sunday by Patrice Dougan about deaf Green MP Mojo Mathers that asked more questions than it answered.

Mathers is a very unlikely and unwise target for a petty political attack regarding MP travel when many questions could be asked about use and possible misuse of travel.

Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers’ Union poorly answered questions put to him by the HoS but he denies initiating the issue and he went into damage control quickly.

David Farrar, also involved with the Taxpayers’ Union, had no apparent involvement until making a late comment on Facebook, and posted nothing on Kiwiblog.

Through the day a number of Greens, including co-leader Russel Norman and communications director Andrew Campbell, kept trying to link John Key and National to the attack on Mathers.

Blogger Danyl Maclachlan (who’s partner works in the Green communication team) posts twice making serious accusations about funding of the Taxpayers’ Union and links with the TU and National and reacts aggressively when confronted.

There was no apparent involvement of Labour with no post and from what I can see no mention of this at all on The Standard (very unusual for something like this). Grant Robertson jumped on the bandwagon late yesterday.

The first question asked by the Herald remains unanswered – who asked it in the first place?

The Article

It started with an article in the Herald on Sunday this morning. It was odd. It was by Patrice Dougan – not a name commonly seen associated with political stories. It began:

Questions are being asked about a taxpayer-funded trip for deaf MP Mojo Mathers to be interviewed on a small provincial radio station.

It then detailed Mathers’ trip to Masterton, and quoted her explanation. It then said she “did not know the cost of the trip” but then provided a detailed cost estimate.

It then closed with:

The Taxpayers Union questioned whether it was value for money.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.

“The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

Much criticism of Williams and the Taxpayers’ Union ensued. But Williams later claimed that he didn’t initiate the story or ask any questions, the Herald cam to him and asked him for comment.

Back to the opening sentence – “Questions are being asked about…” – who asked questions? That wasn’t answered, but it was implied that it had been the Taxpayers Union.

Green indignation

Social media was buzzing with Green indignation and criticism through the day. Much of it was the usual sort of quick reactions common when something controversial and potentially damaging politically.

But there were some unusual Green reactions as well.

@RusselNorman
The National Party’s ally doesn’t want Mojo speaking at a rural disability event. Seriously?

John Hart@farmgeek 
If you had any doubt the @TaxpayersUnion is a right-wing attack organ…

@RusselNorman
Whaleoil, Kiwiblog, Taxpayers Union, John Key. The four legs of the National Party attack dog.

Except Whale Oil and Kiwiblog do not appear to have been involved in this story. Slater reacted late in the morning – he is likely to break stories he is involved with. And Farrar was away on a walk for most of the day and still hasn’t posted on Kiwiblog about it (he covered it on his Facebook page late this afternoon).

@louise_bee
@RusselNorman
Interesting that they’re going after the Greens so much. They must consider you a bigger threat than Labour.

It’s common to see Greens talking up their importance like this when a scandal breaks, there was a lot of it during the Turei jacket episode.

@Andr3wCampbell 

Really glad @mojomathers gets out to rural communities to talk to people with disabilities. National’s attack petty.

@nzheraldnznews are people with disabilities in rural communities questioning the trip? Or just a @NZNationalParty aligned operative?

in actual news @JordNZ, here is a real story on tax payer spending @NZGreens uncovered whole you were chasing $500.

I think Andrew Geddis sums up the National Party attack on @mojomathers pretty well here http://pundit.co.nz/content/lets-all-pick-on-the-deaf-girl …

Andrew is “Aotearoa New Zealand Green Party Communications Director”.

Repeatedly linking National to the story and to the Taxpayers’ Union.

Support act

Danyl Mclauclan used to be an accomplished satirist at his Dim-Post blog, but he has evolved into a usually occasional political commentator/activist. Unusually he posted twice today, both on this topic.

Another question for the Taxpayer Union

Here’s my question for the Taxpayer’s Union and the journalists who run their copy. How much of the revenue of the various companies, consultancies and law firms run by the founders and directors of this ‘union’ is taxpayer funded? Given the individuals involved – eg Jordan Williams, David Farrar – I’d be shocked if the taxpayers were paying less than a million dollars a year to the people involved in this organisation who run around planting attack stories against opposition parties.

And:

Slightly more thoughts on the Taxpayers’ Union

Here’s how I’m guessing this works. The (taxpayer funded) opposition researchers in the National Party find a smear story they like. They pitch it to an editor at the Herald and – because they can’t provide comment themselves for obvious reasons, such as John Key’s taxpayer funded golf game – they say, ‘Call Jordan Williams at the Taxpayers’ Union and he’ll give you comment.’

So, that’s sort-of how political media works.

That sounds odd too, as if he is trying pin something on an opponent. Danyls insists he isn’t a Green but has been open about the fact that his partner works in the Green communications team.

I suggested to him on Twitter that “As much chance that #NZGreens could be playing this game as easily as @NZNationalParty are? Party and surrogates could be spinning?”

He usually ignores me but this time responded:

When is the last time you saw me quoted in a media story, vegetable?

And to a tweet from someone else:

Where did you get the idea that I was a member of the Green Party or shared their values? Fuck off lick-spittles.

That’s uncharacteristic and could suggest some sensitivity.

Labour’s involvement

What’s most notable about Labour’s involvement was the absence of any. The Standard didn’t post on it and remarkably there seems to be absolutely no comment on the most talked about political issue of the day.

Grant Robertson joined the issue very late, 8.36 pm last night, with a single tweet.

@grantrobertson1
Lets be clear Jordan Williams and his so called Taxpayers Union are simply a right wing political front. They should be reported as such.

Labour to have been right out of this loop

National’s involvement

Tau Henare tweeted early in support of Mathers…

@tauhenare
@mojomathers
Dear Mojo, tell these self serving pricks to go find something else to do. You are doing your job. #Endofstory

…and reacted to accusations later:

@Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Ok bro so there are NO #NatMPs involved as far as we know. Just tell the truth FGS

@Andr3wCampbell And where’s the answer to my question. What MPs belong to #TPU? Answer the blinking question!

This is the face of the @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope 2. dear #TPU, thanks for nothing.

The @NZGreens Coms Director. 1 He said #NatMPs were involved in the #TPU Debacle. Nope,Liar pic.twitter.com/W7eFU7SNcI

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP Shutup you backed the greens Coms director, he said it, you tried to support him! U got caught, you deny it

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP and BTW don’t woah me. Your supposition isn’t the point. There are no MPs and it’s not Nat party apparatus.

@iamjordanking @JudithCollinsMP I have no raw nerves, your mates lied and you over cooked it. Our MPs wld be outrAged at #TPU stupidity.

Judith Collins was only briefly drawn into it.

@JudithCollinsMP

@tauhenare: @Andr3wCampbell So which Nat MP supports the outrageous attack on a fellow MP?”Tau, you can’t expect the Left to tell the truth

Where does this leave it?

I’ve seen many attempted political hit jobs in media and online and this looks quite different to normal. There’s no sign David Farrar was involved and Jordan Williams did not appear to be pushing the story, to the contrary, he tried to retreat from it. He said it was “a hard lesson learned.”

It looks like a job done by people who are not practiced in the dark arts of politics.

While it’s possible it was opportunist reaction to the story Green leadership and their communications team were actively pushing a wider story, trying to taint the Taxpayers’ Union and also trying to smear National and Act.

But this currently left where it started in the Herald article – “Questions are being asked about …” – what questions? And who asked them?

We know who kept asking questions through the day, but we can’t be sure who put the question to the Herald in the first place.

The Herald is based in Auckland. It reported on a minor trip to Masterton by a Christchurch MP with a low profile. And it’s primary question seems to have deliberately implied something mischievous without answering the question.

There is something very odd about this story.

Taxpayer Union versus Mojo Mathers

The Taxpayer Union criticism of an 800 km trip by Green MP to talk on “a small provincial radio station” has raised some ire and discussion. NZ Herald reports in Green MP’s 800km taxpayer-funded trip questioned:

The Green MP says the 800km trip on the taxpayer dollar was essential, but a taxpayer group queries whether it was fiscally and environmentally responsible.

On Friday, Parliament’s only deaf MP flew from Christchurch to Wellington, then drove to Masterton, to participate in ArrowFM’s Wheels on Fire programme for people with disabilities.

ArrowFM is one of 12 Community Access Radio stations in New Zealand, and the only community station in Wairarapa. Its audience is not known, but its Facebook page has 132 “likes”.

The Taxpayers Union has been unnecessarily snarky.

“It’s amazing that she has so little to do with her time to actually travel to a community radio that probably has as many listeners as you can count on your hand,” director Jordan Williams said.

“The only silver lining is that the time spent travelling to go on the station in the middle of nowhere is less time spent dreaming up new ways to spend tax payers money.”

This leaves Taxpayers Union open to accusations of this being a partisan attack, an inevitably this is what has happened. One example:

Andrew Campbell ‏@Andr3wCampbell 

Are people with disabilities in rural communities questioning the trip? Or just a @NZNationalParty aligned operative?

Mathers explains her side of the story.

Last night Ms Mathers said the journey was a necessary expense because it was “almost impossible for me to do live interviews over the phone”.

She needed to be face-to-face with the interviewer in order to lip read, she said, especially for a one-hour show.

“As the only disabled Member of Parliament it is really important I represent disabled New Zealanders, which make up one in five New Zealanders,” she said.

“MPs do have to fly a fair bit to get out to our communities. All Green MPs offset our air travel and try to minimise it as much as possible.

“I consider all requests to meet very carefully, including this one, and I felt it was really important to take this opportunity to speak to disabled New Zealanders living in rural communities.”

Fair points. But because she has special considerations due to her disability and her focus on advocating for people with disabilities shouldn’t rule out questioning whether Mather’s trip was sensible use of travel expenses.

Were the trip expenses solely for this one purpose? Was it good value for money?

Could this trip have been done at a more sensible time, for example while Mathers was already in Wellington on other business?

It’s worth also pointing out that other MPs incur substantial travel costs, often of far more questionable benefit to the taxpayers.

For example over the past couple of weeks a number of MPs (from Labour and National that I’m aware of) have been flying around the country from one university orientation week to another. They may claim to be communicating with constituents but a large amount of focus seems to be on promoting their parties and trying to recruit youth members.

It’s fair to question Mathers on how wisely she was incurring costs – if this questioning was done in a more reasonable manner it would be taken more seriously.

But picking this one trip out of the many MP travel rorts seems odd and unfair.

UPDATE: To clarify – this story was not initiated by the Taxpayers’ Union, it was  Herald story and Jordan Williams was asked to comment off the cuff, which he did.

UPDATE 2: More details…

McCarten move a Green squeeze?

Matt MCarten’s appointment as David Cunliffe’s chief of staff strengthens connections between the Labour Party and the Mana Party/Movement.

What does this mean for Greens?

It appears that Labour is reaching across the Greens to the Mana constituency, trying to build (pr rebuild a broad centre-ish to left Labour grouping that also targets the poor. And that encroaches on the main focus of the Greens – they seem to have relegated environmental issues and have a preference for promoting social change.

Labour+Mana will also try and squeeze the Maori Party out of contention.

Add to this Cunliffe’s recent comments about Winston Peters that suggest an attempt to work with NZ First and the Labour election strategy may be  being revealed.

Labour either need NZ First or need for NZ First to not go with National to be able to form a coalition. It’s well known that Peters has an aversion to working with the Greens.

Labour may see problems working with the Green co-leaders too. And there is a few percent of the party vote up for grabs, the last poll hints this may be slipping from the Green grasp already.

A Labour+Mana+NZ First combination may be hoping to squeeze the Greens out of contention, or at least relegate them to making up the numbers without having much clout.

The McCarten move may be part of a Labour Green squeeze strategy.

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