Too many Maori, not enough chiefs

Breakfast has just had two contradictory items on the continuing mess at Waitangi.

First they interviewed Manu Paul who slammed John Key for trying to bring talk about the TPPA to Waitangi.

They have followed that with “former politician” Hone Harawira slamming Key for not coming to Waitangi to discuss the TPPA in the political debate tent he is organising.

Paul criticised Key for poor communication. The problem is who the hell should key communicate with?

Some say Key should talk to Maori about their issues. Others say they would have done everything the could to stop Key from talking there.

Too many Maori and not enough chiefs?

Key pulls out of Waitangi

After another muddled and confusing day on whether John Key would attend Waitangi celebrations this year he has recently announced he won’t be going, citing too much risk.

He has been getting very mixed messages from Te Tii Marae about whether he would be welcome and whether he would be gagged.

And he said he wants to avert threats of riots.

Radio NZ reports: PM slams ‘Mickey Mouse’ marae behaviour

Prime Minister John Key will not attend celebrations at Waitangi this year, saying the trustees’ refusal to let him speak is effectively a gagging order.

Mr Key this afternoon said he had had no response to a letter he sent to trustees at Te Tii Marae earlier today asking for clarification on his speaking rights.

He had given them a 4pm deadline but they had not responded so he would not be attending.

Mr Key said respect went both ways; he had respected the protocols of the marae but they were not showing respect to him.

“I’ve been very keen to go. I gave a commitment that I’d go every year – a pretty basic commitment around what you would expect, the opportunity for the government to turn up to have its particular message of the day and to engage,” he said.

“We wanted to do that but I can’t go and I won’t go to Waitangi with a gagging order on me.”

As well, he had heard some senior kaumatua had said they would encourage riots if he spoke about the Trans Pacific Partnership deal (TPP) – signed in Auckland today.

Mr Key said he could not go under those circumstances, as it would put his security people at risk.

So grandstanding activists will have to find someone else to target. But that won’t be Maori Party leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell decides not to be welcomed on to Te Tii following PM’s announcement.

I don’t blame either of them for not giving a few radicals a target for abuse.

And it goes further than that:

No Crown representatives will be welcomed onto the marae at Waitangi tomorrow because of PM’s no show

If they want people to turn up perhaps some of them shouldn’t present themselves as abusive and repellent.

TPPA signing and protests

Two things are certain – the signing will go ahead, and the protests will go ahead.

Apart from that after all the build up and rhetoric it’s impossible to know how the day will pan out.

I won’t be able to post during the day on the Trans Pacific Partnership signing and protests. I’ll catch up on what has happened later in the day.

The organisers of the main anti-TPPA events are stressing they will be a family friendly and non-violent, and there’s no reason to doubt their peaceful intent. Any threat of violence would deter some from taking part and they want as many as possible to give a show of force by numbers.

But there have been some provocative suggestions and urgings from the fringes, plus a media who love big news to report which will provide a spotlight for the over-exuberant and the unhinged.

So anything could happen today.

It will be a national expression of:

  • anti-TPPA
  • anti-John Key
  • anti-government
  • anti-USA
  • anti-international trade
  • anti-globalisation
  • anti-corporations

And it will be a historic day for New Zealand internationally.

Should Key stay away?

Should our Prime Minister go to an event at Waitangi where he is expected to remain silent in the face of expected criticism and abuse?

The local hapu want him to attend Te Tii but some from the far North want him excluded and others want him to attend a free shot.

Tracy Watkins asks Is it time for John Key to turn his back on Waitangi?

Everyone will remember that it was Titewhai Harawira who reduced Clark to tears at Te Tii marae in 1998 after refusing to accord her speaking rights.

Clark referred to that incident after becoming prime minister, noting that her tears were “not for myself but for the ruination, yet again, of an event which has so much potential for healing, reconciliation, and taking matters forward in a setting so historic and so beautiful”.

That’s sad. Very sad. And the ruination continues.

Things now appear to have come full circle with Key being told his attendance at Te Tii this year will be conditional on his silence.

There’s zero chance of Key buckling to that demand given the verbal abuse that is likely to be heaped on him and his government over New Zealand’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Would Maori leaders put up with the same bickering and silencing in the face of abuse if they were visiting another marae?

I think Key will have widespread support from around the rest of the country if he respectfully tells Waitangi to get stuffed.

More flag poll details

Newshub published more details on their Reid Research flag poll.

Overall results:

  • Change – 30%
  • No change – 61%
  • Don’t know/don’t care – 9%

Party breakdown:

  • National – 48% no, 41% yes
  • Labour – 73% no, 20% yes
  • Greens – 60% no, 30% yes
  • NZ First – 66% no, 34% yes

Lockwood flag design:

  • Not good or could be better- 60%
  • Good – 35%
  • Don’t care – 5%

That’s similar to change/no change so isn’t a surprise. I support change but hoped the alternative would have been ‘better’. I don’t see the need for the southern cross but understand that some people like the traditional link.

  • 16% – “I want to change the flag but am voting for the current flag because I don’t like the alternative design”

That’s also expected, there would never be universal support for any alternative design. Some people seem to think a different selection process would have come up with a magic design that everyone thinks is just the ticket but that’s dreaming.

From Newshub (with a ‘duh’ headline) – Alternative design factor in flag change opposition:

Patrick Gower: Some people like Daphne (Wright?) are against the new flag simply because it’s John Key’s pet project.

Daphne: I don’t like it because I don’t like him anyway.

Sad to see personal dislike affecting choice of flag but that’s a reality of anything done in politics.

The party aligned opposition is in part a reflection of basic personal dislike, but it will also have been influenced by the stances of the Labour and Green parties opposing the flag change process, despite flag change being party policy.

If a Labour government tried a flag change process it would be difficult due to more conservative National supporters tending to be against both flag change and Labour.

The best chance we have of changing the flag is a process initiated and driven by a popular National leader.

If this fails, and that’s quite likely due to a number of factors including political opposition, then we are unlikely to get another choice on our flag for some time.

This opportunity to choose a new flag hasn’t been handled as well as it should have been by Key, but Labour and Greens may ensure it is a wasted opportunity.

With political pettiness like this we don’t deserve a decent identifying symbol, and probably will never get one unless our politicians grow up.

I don’t see either happening in my lifetime, unless a strong leader turns up who is able to set an example of mature politics.

Perhaps our MPs should be offered free kindergarten fees. that might encourage them to graduate from the sand pit of pissed pants politics.

John Key’s new website

A new website (under the national.org.nz domain) has been launched focussing on John Key.

“I want to leave New Zealand in better shape than I found it. I know the job of Prime Minister is not forever and I’m going to do the best I can every day to make that difference.”

I would expect every Prime Minister to have had that sort of ambition.

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not given Labour’s new policy announcement but education is a feature.

Views on Education

Education is a big focus for John. He shares his personal thoughts about why it’s so important for every New Zealand child to get the best education possible.

It lists policies that Key claims to have “personally pushed through” but it is generally very palavery.

I believe ensuring every child in New Zealand gets a great education is one of the most important things we can do as a government. That’s why we’ll continue to work hard to make that happen.

Bland spin. Ok, he might mean it but it’s hardly a vote winner.

It also features a Q&A:

To kick off 2016, we sat down with John Key and put some questions to him about the year ahead, why he wanted to become Prime Minister, and what he enjoys most about the job.

Again most are fairly bland, like “How was your summer break?” and “What’s your favourite meal or some of your favourite foods to eat?”.

Even priorities for this year fails to reveal anything much of real interest.

Q. What are your priorities for 2016?

The economy is going to be an important part of what we’re trying to continue to work on this year.

We have, I think in fairness, every year we’ve been in government tried to lift living standards and opportunities for New Zealanders and make the economy more both robust and competitive but it’s quite clear that we can already see the challenges in somewhere like China at the moment, the volatility that’s likely to be there in the international markets, but also the opportunity for New Zealand.

Our economy is diversifying, it’s doing well, wages are growing, job opportunities are rising but it’s something you’ve got to constantly work at, and this year will be no exception so that will be important.

I think security issues will continue to be an issue, we’ve already seen these terrible terrorist attacks around the world, most recently in Indonesia, but of course in Paris, prior to Christmas, so that’ll be an important issue.

We’ve also got quite a lot of work we’re doing on what I’d define as social agenda issues, and working on how we help the most vulnerable in our society.

The News page just repeats what is already on the main National party website.

Unless there are things of real interest added this site is likely to be largely ignored or skim read at best, if anyone finds it.

 

 

Standard joins Key/police pre-blaming

Anthony Robins has joined in the pre-blaming of John Key and the police for any violence that might occur in TPPA protests.

National – trying to provoke TPP violence?

A couple of days ago Chris Trotter set out an interesting theory: Let’s Not Lose Our Tempers: If John Key wants a riot outside Sky City – don’t give him one

Now with the news that the police are visiting (i.e. intimidating) known activists, Jane Kelsy has reached a similar conclusion: Desperate Key trying to redefine TPPA as law & order issue

I think Kelsey is right, in harassing activists Key is cynically trying to blow the “law and order” dog whistle. Is Trotter right too? Would Key really go so far as to try and provoke open violence for political gain? It worked for his idol Muldoon.

I don’t believe either Key or the police will in any way try to provoke violence, I think claims that they are is either deluded or a deliberate attempt to both talk up trouble and try to divert the blame from themselves and troublemakers.

I doubt that Robins is deliberately trying to talk up violence, it’s more likely he has bought into the dirty messaging.

This is a form of dirty politics.

Added comment: I haven’t seen any evidence of police intimidation or activists, nor any evidence the Key or National are trying to provoke violence, so I condemn those making up accusations and posts. If any evidence is produced then I’ll condemn Key or the police.

 

New Zealand’s monarchist state, explained

NZ Herald cartoon today:

There’s a number of things that could be read from that.

Sports supporters who want to keep the current flag? I don’t think there are many England team fans in New Zealand, especially when the likes of the All Blacks or Black Caps or Silver Ferns or Black Ferns play them.

John Key? He likes the Queen and her honours system but wants a distinctive New Zealand flag.

KeyFernBeer

I wonder if he wears his new flag lapel badge when he gets his knighthood.

KeyLapelLockwood

Key at Ratana, January 2016

State of the Auckland speech

John Key is clearly targeted Auckland with his State of the Nation speech today. The major spending initiatives were in Auckland, with the city rail link and a motorway link.

Better transport in Auckland will enable people to commute from home to work faster so that have more time to earn enough money to pay for their mortgages.

Key’s SPEECH TO AUCKLAND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

So I can today confirm the Government will work with the Council to bring forward the business plan and formalise our funding commitment from 2020.

The Council has indicated this would allow construction of the Rail Link’s main works to start in 2018 – at least two years earlier than currently envisaged.

I guess that means the Council will pay for the first two years banking on a Government promise to pick up the tab from 2020.

What is actually new in this?

Key also mentioned some regional stuff but that seems to have been token as it was things that had been announced before.

Some regions have been doing well but that’s not with much help from Government.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen: I sought election as Prime Minister because I believed New Zealand could do better as a country – much better.

I wanted us to become a more prosperous, more ambitious and more confident nation; a successful country comfortable in its own skin.

I also believed that if we set a course of considered and sensible reform year after year, we could again be one of the world’s best places to live and work.

We’re making good progress in a world full of challenges.

Our households and businesses are more resilient and more outward looking.

We’re grasping the many opportunities opening up on our doorstep in Asia and the Pacific.

And we’re providing more of our young people with opportunities to raise their families here instead of heading overseas.

But the job is far from finished.

Our challenge over the next few years is to stay on course and build on the good momentum we’re now seeing.

My Government is motivated to continue working hard for all New Zealanders.

Providing we stick with a plan that’s working, I know we can deliver the opportunities New Zealanders and their families deserve.

Conclusion: more of the same with an eye to Auckland votes for next year.

Nothing ‘wow’ about it.

Treasury to cost election promises?

The highlight of Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation speech yesterday was a proposal to have a unit set up in Treasury to cost party election promises.

This was applauded by a range of people, but National don’t seem keen. This is a shame, because while Treasury gives the incumbent an advantage in costing policies National will be in Opposition again some time.

And even in Government national would benefit by keeping the other parties honest with their promises.

From Turei’s speech:

And the policy I want to talk about today is a small change to our political process that will have a big impact on our democracy.

During election campaigns there’s always a lot of conflict and shouting between politicians about whose policy costs what, and where the money will come from. Which party is going to get us into surplus ten minutes faster than the others, and so on.

We get criticised a lot for the supposed cost of our policies. But we do extensive work costing all of our policies before each election. We release fiscal statements. We get them audited.

National doesn’t do that. They don’t because there’s a perception that they’re sensible and trustworthy on economic issues. So the reality is they get to make it up as they go along. Money appears out of thin air and no one even blinks. The asset sales are a good example. John Key pitched it as freeing up $7-10 billion. They got $4.7 billion. Then Bill English promised to spend that money many times over, in completely different ways depending on who he was talking to. We got scammed. And no-even even blinked.

So what I’m here to announce today is a measure designed to bring a little more transparency and accountability into New Zealand politics. Today, the Green Party has sent a letter to each party leader, asking for support from across the House to establish an independent unit in the Treasury to cost policy promises.

Political parties could submit their policies for costing to this independent unit, which would then produce a report with information on both the fiscal and wider economic implications of the policy.

Instead of New Zealanders making their decisions based on spin and who can shout the loudest, they will have meaningful, independently verified information instead.

It will also ensure that policy promises are stable and durable because parties won’t be able to promise the earth unless they have the earth to give.

So we are going to work with the other political parties in Parliament to try and make this a reality for the 2017 election. And it’s going to be very interesting to see which parties support it and who opposes it. Hopefully everyone will support it. It won’t cost much. It’s good for our democracy. It’s good for New Zealand.

Political power can transform the country for the better, and make a positive difference to the lives of generations to come, if that power is exercised with responsibility and caution. So the first things we should ask of those who seek to wield that power is what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it, and what it’s going to cost.

So we call on the other political parties to welcome this idea and to work with us to make next year’s election more accountable and democratic. To close this gap we have between perception and reality, the gap between what political leaders say and what we actually do.

The Taxpayers’ Union was quick to back Turei’s proposal:

The Taxpayers’ Union is welcoming the proposal from Green Party co-leader, Metiria Turei, in her state of the nation speech today for a policy costing unit inside Treasury that would independently cost the policies of political parties.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says “We agree with the Greens that an independent office to cost political promises would be good for democracy and public policy debates. While our preference is to have the office as one of Parliament, rather than Treasury, the Green’s policy has real merit.”

“Seldom does the Taxpayers’ Union call for new spending of taxpayers’ money but here we think the benefits to transparency and democracy far outweigh the cost.”

“This tool would make it harder for politicians to make up expensive policy on the hoof with taxpayers bearing the costs of the wish-lists. It would likely prevent the fiasco we saw with the Northland by-election bribes.”

Having Treasury cost policies would save the Taxpayers’ Union from having to do it, but I agree that “the benefits to transparency and democracy far outweigh the cost”.

More positive coverage:

Isaac Davison: Metiria Turei chooses perfect issue to kick off the year

Metiria Turei chose a perfect issue to kick off the political year.

In her scene-setting State of the Nation speech today, the Green Party co-leader focused on the need for political parties to be economically credible.

Also from Davidson: Party policies costing plan could fly

Speaking at her State of the Nation speech yesterday, she said she had written to all party leaders to seek their support for the policy.

National appeared to oppose the proposal yesterday, though ministers gave different views on the issue.

Prime Minister John Key said it was “not a terribly good idea”. He said it would require a funding boost for the Treasury and would not achieve the Green Party’s goal of greater transparency because the results would be manipulated for political gain.

“They would just ignore it if they didn’t like the numbers,” he said.

That contrasted with comments by Acting Finance Minister Steven Joyce, who said National “did not have a strong view either way” on the policy.

Mr Joyce said that if all Opposition parties were interested in it, then National would consider it.

“I’d say we’d be open to it, but let’s see what other Opposition parties think,” he said.

I hope Key thinks this one through. It will benefit voters, and it will also benefit parties proposing sensible and affordable policies.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

…said he supported the idea because it would improve transparency and help parties to understand the impact of the Government’s policies.

Act Party leader David Seymour…

…said it was a politically smart move by the Greens because it would allow the party to “sanitise itself in the eyes of the business world”. But it would have problems in practice because the Government department might not be able to provide the definitive numbers the Greens were seeking.

Incoming Business New Zealand head Kirk Hope…

…said the policy would make it easier and better for businesses to understand the costs of party policies. He said the system was already used in other countries.

“It’s not something that is new or unusual and it could make a very useful contribution to be able to analyse policies.”

There is already a means of costing policies:

Parties are already able to request the assistance of a full-time Treasury official for policy costings, but must pay for it out of their parliamentary budget.

Most parties opt not to use this resource, preferring instead to outsource their costings to private firms.

This gives the Minister of Finance a chance to see what other parties are proposing in advance so it is avoided by opposition parties.

It needs to be independent of any Government oversight.

Stacey Kirk at Stuff also thinks it’s a good idea (it will be very useful for journalists to have policies costed) – Greens throw out reasonable policy in speech to rebut ‘radical’ claims:

OPINION: It’s not a radical policy at all.

In fact, having Treasury cost the political promises of all parties not only seems fair, but really rather reasonable.

At her State of the Nation – the first in a series from all political leaders – Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei was at great pains to rebuke criticisms from some that their policies represent a shift to the “radical” left.

Treasury already has a small budget to do that if parties wish – it’s smaller than the $1million to $2m in a normal year, and $3m in an election year that the Greens estimate it would cost to make the system workable.

No party taps into the existing fund.

Indeed, at the last election, the Greens paid for independent audits of their policies themselves. It was in their interests to; many voters would flinch at the idea of a Green Party with a hand in Government spending.

But the reason parties don’t use the money available to reinforce their policies is because it’s accountable to the Finance Minister of the day.

And in the dirty game of politics, you bet that Government would use the information for their own election designs.

That’s the problem now, so opposition parties don’t use Treasury.

Turei has written to all leaders asking for cross-party support of this particular policy. Labour have indicated their support, but the big fish to land is National.

For them to do so would be to give up a significant advantage, which seems unlikely. Even in the face of claims that opposition to the Green policy would clearly be for their own election interests.

After all, this seems like a policy that would appeal to political party, and policy wonks in Wellington (whose votes are often already decided), but few through mainstream New Zealand are likely to take a great interest.

A shame. Because after a year of increasingly rising barriers to the access of public information, surely the national interests lie in making the next election more democratic, not less.

That’s certainly in the national interest but it may not happen if it’s thought to not be in the National interest. Which would be a shame.

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