Greenwald speech (2) – surveillance versus interference in a country’s election

The second part of Glenn Greenwald’s speech at Kim Dotcom’s “The Moment of Truth” event on Monday night was on the alleged planning of mass surveillance.

The second really extraordinary thing, and this is genuinely really stunning to me, was on the very first day that I began doing interviews about the reporting that we were here to do, the Prime Minister, in the words of the New Zealand Herald, for the very first time admitted that his Government had in fact planned a programme of mass surveillance aimed at New Zealanders.

That appears to be an inaccurate representation of what Key said.

NZ Herald on Saturday in He’s Dotcom’s little henchman: PM attacks journalist’s spy claims

Greenwald said that New Zealand’s spying agencies had been conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders as part of the Five Eyes arrangement between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Key said that was wrong. “There is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the GCSB and there never has been. Mr Dotcom’s little henchman will be proven to be incorrect because he is incorrect.”

He believed Greenwald was jumping to conclusions based on partial information.

NZ Herald on Sunday in Spying claims force PM to release classified documents

Prime Minister John Key will declassify highly sensitive documents to prove the GCSB pulled the plug on plans to spy on New Zealanders.

Last night Key said he suspected that former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald’s mass surveillance claims were “part of a conversation” of a surveillance plan that was never formulated.

“I am prepared to declassify documents and release proof in the coming days,” said Key.

“There is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the GCSB [Government Communications Security Bureau] and there never has been.

“Mr Dotcom’s little henchman will be proven to be incorrect because he is incorrect.”

Key told 3 News the mass surveillance plan was in response to cyber attacks targeting New Zealand businesses in 2011.

3 News on Saturday in Key hits back at Greenwald’s claims of mass surveillance

The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.

Mr Key has admitted for the first time that yes, New Zealand spies did look into what he calls a “mass protection” option that he concedes could have been seen as “mass surveillance” or “wholesale spying”, but that, and this is the important bit, he says it never actually went ahead.

Mr Key has revealed that after two major cyber-attacks on New Zealand companies, in late 2011 and early 2012, the GCSB stared to look at options with the help of partner agencies like the NSA.

But Mr Key says this idea never got past the business case stage because he deemed it too invasive.

Key said the Government investigated an option of a programme of mass surveillance rather than what Greenwald claims – “his Government had in fact planned a programme of mass surveillance”.

Back to Greenwald’s speech.

He admitted that for the very first time on Saturday after my arrival when he started to have suspicions about what it was I was going to expose.

I’m sure Key considered what Greenwald might try to expose and would have prepared responses long before Greenwald arrived here.

And the reason that’s so stunning to me is if you think about what has happened in this country over the last eighteen months there has been a very serious and sustained debate over surveillance policy, probably as much as if not more than just about any other country on the planet.

It began with the revelations that the Government had illegally spied upon the communications of a legal resident of New Zealand, Kim Dotcom, as well as several dozen other at least citizens and legal residents.

It then was followed by a very intense debate, one media outlet here called it one of the most polarised debates in decades, over a new Internet law that the Key Government insisted on enacting that would vest the Government with greater powers and this all took place within the context of the Snowden revelations, and the global debate about electronic surveillance and Internet freedom and individual privacy that those disclosures provoked.

Key claims he pulled the plug on the GCSB investigating mass surveillance months before the Snowden revelations and the global debate.

The law that was passed was claimed to clarify and tighten up loose legislation to prevent repeats of misinterpretation and potential illegal spying, and it increased oversight of New Zealand’s spy agencies. It’s highly debatable whether it gives the Government greater powers so Greenwald is taking one side of the argument.

And so as this country was immersed in this very serious and sustained debate about surveillance, a debate in which the Prime Minister himself actively participated.

He concealed from the citizenry all of that time the fact that by his very own admission, which is actually inaccurate, but even he admits that he concealed the fact that his own Government over many months was developing a programme of mass surveillance aimed at the citizens of this country.

Greenwald is fudging timing here. The “many months” were up to a year before the debate. 3 News reported:

But Mr Key says this idea never got past the business case stage because he deemed it too invasive.

This was before the Snowden leaks, and Mr Key says the fact he said no is why he has been able to be so resolute that there was no mass spying on Kiwis.

Key says it was an investigation that stopped well before the Snowden leaks and the debate in New Zealand. They weren’t happening concurrently as Greenwald implies.

Greenwald:

What possible justification is there for having concealed that for well over a year, until my arrival compelled him to finally admit it because he knew it was going to get exposed anyway?

I find that genuinely stunning.

It could be justified because by the time of the debate it was one option (presumably the GCSB investigates other options that it never implements) that had been ruled out by the Government.

During the debate Key kept claiming there was no mass surveillance and there would be no mass surveillance. If he said “we thought about it but decided against it” it would have made little or no difference to the outcome of the legislation. If anything it would have further inflamed the debate by raising an issue that was no longer in the frame.

Key presumably chose to talk about it now because he believed Greenwald would make claims about mass surveillance that needed to be addressed and countered.

Did Greenwald think he could come to New Zealand and make claims and accusations during the last week of an election campaign without them being challenged?

Fran O’Sullivan in Key wins – now let’s focus on real issues:

Key has been roundly attacked for declassifying documents to prove his point that the GCSB has not been involved in widespread surveillance of New Zealanders.

Bizarrely, it is somehow seen as perfectly all right for Dotcom and his associates to use stolen National Security Agency files to try to prove the Prime Minister a liar on how his Government has administered national security, but not for Key to declassify New Zealand’s own files to prove he isn’t a liar.

This is utter madness.

Key saw Dotcom coming and released the Cabinet document which backed his statements before the Internet Party visionary’s Moment of Truth fiasco.

He had lined up former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and self-styled adversarial journalist Glenn Greenwald to undermine Key’s credibility and use their combined influence to swing voters against National five days before the election.

But Dotcom’s associates failed to produce any clear evidence to show Key had lied when he said the GCSB had not indulged in mass surveillance of New Zealanders.

Nothing concrete was produced to prove New Zealanders have been illegally spied on.

Not only has nothing concrete been produced to back his claims, for a journalist Greenwald seems to have been making misleading assertions, possibly either deliberately or negligently misrepresenting what has happened.

Greenwald is openly anti-surveillance. He accepted an invitation to speak at a meeting organised by a political party that wants to take down the ruling Government. He has voluntarily participated in the democratic process of a country he has no connection with.

Greenwald seems to see a change of Government in New Zealand as a way of reducing surveillance in New Zealand so he is backing a party and a campaign that wants to achieve that.

What’s a bigger issue to Kiwis, surveillance or interference in a country’s democratic process?

Greenwald’s speech (1) – bickering about bickering

The opening four minutes of Glenn Greenwald’s speech at “The Moment of Truth” was little more than playing politics with John Key – bickering about bickering.

Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thanks to everybody for coming tonight and thank you so much as well to the Internet Party for organising such an impressive event and inviting me to speak.

Greenwald was introduced by MC and leader of the Internet Party, Laila Harre. Sitting on his left on the panel is organiser of the event and founder and funder of the Internet Party. Greenwald later claims it isn’t political.

I am extremely excited to be here and by be here I mean both this event and New Zealand generally.

I’ve only been here for a very short period of time, ninety six hours, but it has been very eventful.

There has been a lot that has happened in that short period of time but there are three episodes that I have found particularly extraordinary since I’ve been here that I want to highlight because I think it has some important meaning for what we’re here to talk about and for the upcoming election.

He thinks what he is saying is important “for the upcoming election”.

The first really extraordinary event is that you know is not all that common to arrive in a country, and within less than twenty four hours literally find oneself being publicly maligned and attacked by the nation’s head of state using the most adolescent epithets imaginable.

Minor misunderstanding – Queen Elizabeth is New Zealand’s head of state, represented in New Zealand by the Governor General.

It is an extraordinary event, in New Zealand at least, for a foreign journalist to make a very public anti-Government appearance at the behest of a political party founder and funder with an open aim of bringing down the current Prime Minister Government.

Has Greenwald done anything like this before? Did he expect no reaction or opposition being so political in a country he has little or no connection with in the last week of an election? or is he playing politics as much as the Prime Minister.

You know Saturday was my first full day here in New Zealand and I was welcomed by being called literally on no less than a dozen occasions a henchman, um, by the nation’s Prime Minister, and today earlier this morning he descended even a little bit further into the muck crowning me a loser, something that I don’t think I’ve been called since I was like fourteen years old so it brought back a lot of really good memories.

And the really amazing thing about it is I’ve done reporting over the last year and couple of months on the NSA and then on global surveillance as a result of the documents I was provided by my source, Edward Snowden, and the New Zealand Government certainly is not the first Government that has disliked the reporting that we’ve done.

And they are not even the first Government that has tried to distract attention away from the substance of the disclosures by trying to attack the journalist personally in order to discredit the journalism.

Greenwald seems to have trouble differentiating his journalism from his political activism.

But what is unique about New Zealand is that in every other country where that was done it wasn’t the Head of State that actually spouted those insults, um they get underlings or representatives or minions to do it because generally Heads of State are very concerned about appearing dignified and statesmanlike.

Spouting insults like ‘underlings’ and ‘minions’, and opening his speech with this counter attack on John Key was a distraction from the substance of his disclosures. Greenwald’s initial approach was playing politics and playing the man – during an election campaign – just like Key.

But I don’t know I guess in some warped way New Zealander’s should consider themselves blessed to be led by a person who has completely unburdened himself with those concerns, I mean he has no interest at all in dignity or statesmanlike behaviour whatsoever, and….

Greenwald has unburdened himself, seeming to have no interest so far in dignity or journalist-like behaviour.

Dotcom, seated right beside Greenwald, keeps reminding of his own undignified presence with frequent and distracting loud laughter.

You know I never thought that I would actually hear myself saying what I have said multiple times in interviews over the last four days which is, it’s a very weird thing to hear one saying, which is I’m not going to lower myself to the Prime Minister’s level by getting into the mud with him and name calling.

And I’ve tried really hard to adhere to that over the past four days and I’m going to try hard although I might not completely succeed but I will try hard to adhere to that tonight as well because there are a lot of really important substantive issues that we shouldn’t allow to be overwhelmed or distracted by what he’s hoping to be this kind of bickering match.

He has already failed. Up to now, in the first four minutes almost exactly of his speech, Greenwald has said nothing substantive, instead being distracted and lowering himself into the political bickering mud.

Video: “The Moment of Truth”  – approximately 28:30 to 32:30

D-Day versus Key-Day

Tonight Kim Dotcom will have his big time in his own spotlight, an event he calls “The Moment of Truth”. He is trying to place himself on the same pedestal as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden – they have one thing in common, they are all being sought by countries for extradition and prosecution, but beyond that Dotcom is an odd associate.

John Key has created a climate of doubt that it will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so media will not just be broadcasting the supposed revelations unchallenged, they will be looking for Key’s response. That was a smart play by Key who has had months to prepare for this.

Dotcom may have sidelined himself by bringing Glenn Grenwald to New Zealand to headline his show with supposed revelations that our GCSB has been undertaking mass surveillance on us.

Greenwald is usually labeled a journalist – and his Pulitzer prize is often mentioned – but he is also a side taking political activist. In his own words in a recent interview for Metro:

I’ve been very clear that I’m not neutral on the question of mass surveillance. It’s dangerous and I oppose it. I’m supportive of political parties around the world that have made it an important part of their platform to work against it, whether it be the Green Party in Europe or the Green Party here, or the Internet Party, or the Techno Pirate party in Sweden.

He has deliberately chosen to reveal what he claims during our election for “maximum impact”.

I think it’s entirely legitimate for a journalist to think about how to maximise public awareness of the reporting that you’re doing. And I knew that by physically travelling here, at this time, when the citizenry is most engaged politically, that would present an excellent opportunity to bring as much attention as possible to these matters.

That sounds more like political activism, and interference in a country’s democratic process.

Key has upped the ante prior to the show, putting his political credibility and probably his political future on the line. Andrea Vance reports at Stuff:

Greenwald says the Government hasn’t been truthful about the GCSB legislation, which passed into law in August 2013.

Key insists Greenwald is “absolutely wrong”.

“He said the GCSB is undertaking mass surveillance against New Zealanders. They are not. There is no ambiguity, no middle ground. I’m right, he’s wrong.”

He says he has documents, including a Cabinet paper, to back his claims. But he won’t release them until Greenwald reveals what he has. And he accused the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist of playing politics, by staging a “sound and light show” with Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom, just days before the election.

Greenwald will join Dotcom at a “Moment of Truth” event tonight in Auckland, where he is set to detail his claims about the GCSB.

Key claims the Snowden documents tell only half the story – that Cabinet signed off proposals for the GCSB to investigate “widespread cyber protection” in early 2012 after two “significant” cyber attacks on Kiwi companies.

But he says that after a year he stopped the work as an internal review unearthed a raft of problems at the agency.

Despite Key’s counter attack Greenwald remains staunch that what he doesn’t know won’t affect the impact of his accusations. He is backing is part of ‘the truth’ being enough truth.

Despite no other world leaders disputing Greenwald’s previous disclosures about other countries in the Five Eyes alliance, Key said: “He’s absolutely wrong . . . he’s releasing hacked information which is presenting a picture which is completely incomplete . . . what I can say to New Zealanders is do not believe them.”

Key looks to be well prepared. It’s not known yet how well prepared Greenwald is to have his allegations strongly challenged. He may have come here thinking New Zealand would be an easy hit after his efforts with the USA, UK, Canada and Australia.

We will have to see what Greenwald produces tonight, and then what Key counters with. Waiting for Key’s response will diffuse the impact of the show tonight.

Dotcom is also going to try and prove Key wrong, but his cases have been overshadowed by his big-noting with international anti-surveillance activists. Whether Key knew Dotcom before he has claimed, just prior to the Dotcom raid, seems relatively trivial.

Dotcom also wants to prove he was granted residency in New Zealand to make it easier for the US to extradite him supposedly at the request of Hollywood.

John Armstrong says that Dotcom’s credibility is also on the line in Dotcom’s last chance to shine.

It is delivery time for Kim Dotcom. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. He must deliver the irrefutable evidence that he has repeatedly promised to show that the Prime Minister has not told the truth.

Dotcom’s “moment of truth” must be a moment of proof. He must prove that the Prime Minister has not been straight with the public, firstly regarding exactly when he became aware of the Megaupload mogul and, secondly, that the intelligence agencies for which John Key has ministerial responsibility have conducted mass surveillance.

There can be no room for doubt. There can be no reliance on the circumstantial. There can be no shifting of goalposts by saying the fuss is all really about New Zealand spying on other countries.

If tonight exposes Dotcom as nothing more than a big-noting charlatan who has attempted to hijack the electoral system, then the public backlash could be withering.

Dishing the dirt on Key in the last week of the campaign may have seemed a clever move when the idea was first mooted within internet-Mana. It may yet be the the final humiliation for the parties of the left in an election campaign that has been turning into a disaster for them.

Key will also be prepared for this.

In founding and financing a political party Dotcom has a stated aim of bringing down Key and the National Government. This already looks like having backfired, with National looking reasonably strong and the Internet-Mana Party failing to attract substantial support.

It’s possible Dotcom will land a big hit on Key tonight, but it could as easily benefit Key and National more than it hurts them, especially if Dotcom’s fireworks are a fizzer.

This campaign circus will make it very difficult for an already failing Labour and other parties to get any worthwhile attention in the final days leading up to the election.

Some on the left are hoping Dotcom will rescue a desperate situation for them. They are betting the election on Greenwald’s cards and have already shown they are prepared to take Glenn’s gospel as the whole truth and the only truth. They are already convinced Key is a liar so will disregard anything he says as usual.

The election that has been taken over by international political activists and a German trying desperately to stay in New Zealand to avoid prosecution in the US.

But voters across the spectrum get to make the final judgement on Saturday. The final polls over the next couple of days may be less able than usual to predict what might happen, they will not reflect what comes out of tonight’s “moment of truth” and the ensuing counter truths and arguments.

Dotcom’s big day has arrived. Key looks confident and well prepared.

We will never get the full truth from either side, but the country will judge Dotcom and Greenwald (most Kiwis won’t have heard of him) versus one of New Zealand’s most popular Prime Ministers ever.

Today is D-Day. Saturday is Key-Day, one way or another.

Glenn Greenwald in New Zealand

Media interviews with Glenn Greenwald on his New Zealand visit to speak at a public meeting arranged by Kim Dotcom plus related coverage.

The Nation: Interview Glenn Greenwald

United States journalist Glenn Greenwald says there are serious questions about whether the New Zealand Government was truthful about the GCSB law change.

“What I can tell you is that the statement that the GCSB made to New Zealand citizens last year — ‘We do not engage in mass surveillance of New Zealanders’ — is one that is not truthful.”

The Government engages in “extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata – meaning who’s talking to whom for how long, where they are when they speak – on a massive, indiscriminate scale, not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well”.

He says New Zealand is an active member of the Five Eyes Alliance and spends an extraordinary amount of resources on electronic surveillance.

“…Every single thing that the NSA does that we have been reporting on over the last year and a couple of months involves New Zealand directly.”

The GCSB spies on a variety of countries, both hostile and allies. New Zealand spy agencies also have access to the XKeyscore spyware and contributes to it.

In his first television interview in New Zealand, he talks to Lisa Owen about the Edward Snowden leaks and how New Zealand agencies are involved in spying here and abroad.

Mr Greenwald is in New Zealand for Kim Dotcom’s “moment of truth” announcement on Monday night.

Lisa Owen Interviews National Party Leader John Key

We’ve only got a little bit of time left, so I just want to ask you one more time. Glenn Greenwald, the investigative journalist, is going to be on this show shortly. What do you think he’s got on New Zealand, and should you be worried?

Don’t know, but Kim Dotcom might not like surveillance agencies or intelligence agencies. Fair enough. He’s got his own reasons, and he can look himself in the mirror and ask himself why. But for other New Zealanders, there is a risk in New Zealand. It’s much smaller than other countries, but there is a risk. And as prime minister, I have to take the responsibility to do everything I can to protect New Zealanders.

NZ Herald: He’s Dotcom’s little henchman: PM attacks journalist’s spy claims

Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, said that New Zealand’s spying agencies had been conducting mass surveillance on New Zealanders as part of the Five Eyes arrangement between the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Key said that was wrong. “There is no mass surveillance of New Zealanders by the GCSB and there never has been. Mr Dotcom’s little henchman will be proven to be incorrect because he is incorrect.”

He believed Greenwald was jumping to conclusions based on partial information. Greenwald has worked with Edward Snowden over material Mr Snowden obtained relating to the activities of spy agencies worldwide.

NZ Q&A Video: The GCSB engages in mass surveillance – Glenn Greenwald (0:46)

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald says the GCSB engages in mass surveillance

NZ Q&A: Key “rejected mass surveillance plan”

John Key: GCSB looked into a mass surveillance plan but he rejected it

National Party leader John Key told TV1’s Q+A programme that the GCSB looked into a plan for mass surveillance after two companies were subjected to a major cyber-attack – but he rejected it.

“ What ended up actually happening though was in about September of 2012 obviously there was the shake-up of GCSB, I brought in Rebecca Kitteridge, I started saying to the agency look, firstly your law needs to change, secondly your institution needs to strengthen, and thirdly I’m a little uncomfortable with where you’re sorting to go. I think you’re actually arguing this far too broadly. Even though a lot of New Zealanders might like it, because it’s really a Norton anti-virus at a very high level.”

Mr Key said he would produce proof that New Zealanders are not subject to mass surveillance, as claimed by Journalist Glenn Greenwald.

“ This is the point around the politics of all this. He’s had these documents for well over a year or so, so he’s miraculously turning up 5 days before, 6 days before an election to try and bamboozle people, and try and make all of these claims which don’t stack up. But he’s only seen one bit you see, he’s hacked in, he’s seen all of this information, he said aha gotcha, and of course what he doesn’t realise is none of that ever happened. So I’ll be able to produce the document that says here’s rescinding the asking of the business case, here’s the document that actually shows what’s taken place.

Q&A Video: Government considered mass surveillance but ruled it out – John Key (9:51)

Metro: Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 9

DAY NINE: IN WHICH GLENN GREENWALD RECEIVES VISITORS AT THE SAD AND DEPRESSING DOTCOM MANSION – AND THE “LITTLE HENCHMAN” CALLS THE PRIME MINISTER A DIRTY LIAR

Greenwald acknowledges he’s not neutral and is politically motivated

Glenn Greenwald, in an interesting interview with Steve Braunias, acknowledges that he is not neutral regarding mass surveillance and he sides with political parties with similar views.

Different journalists have different views on what the proper role a journalist is. I’ve been very clear that I’m not neutral on the question of mass surveillance. It’s dangerous and I oppose it. I’m supportive of political parties around the world that have made it an important part of their platform to work against it, whether it be the Green Party in Europe or the Green Party here, or the Internet Party, or the Techno Pirate party in Sweden.

But was it really a good call to accept his invitation? Doesn’t it compromise your independence?

Oh, look. Politicians, when faced with disclosures that are threatening to their political power, attack the messenger. This is just a millennia-old tactic to distract attention away from the revelations.

The interview was conducted at Kim Dotcom’s residence in Helensville. Greenwald has been brought to New Zealand by Dotcom.

On whether he has sufficient information to make his claims:

He says he has documents that you don’t have.

I have all of the documents that my source has furnished me. I don’t have every single document that exists in the NSA archives.

Well, let’s call these documents cards. Consider this: Key is going to play a card you have not seen, and it will trump you.

I’m not here to play a game. I’m here to do journalism and to have the truth be disclosed to the public so they can make informed choices about the politicians they want in power. I’m here to report on what the documents I have reveal, as honestly as I can.

But Key says your documents are incomplete.

Well – I mean – you know – there’s always theoretically the possibility there’s some things you’re not aware of that exist. But my documents are very clear. And it’s very hard to imagine there being documents which negate these documents.

Acknowledging the timing of his visit is deliberately coinciding with the election for political impact:

Why are you here, at Dotcom’s house? You must have carefully considered this. Why didn’t you just work with local journalists, as I think you have done in other countries?

I think it’s entirely legitimate for a journalist to think about how to maximise public awareness of the reporting that you’re doing. And I knew that by physically travelling here, at this time, when the citizenry is most engaged politically, that would present an excellent opportunity to bring as much attention as possible to these matters.

The whole interview is worth reading:

Source – Metro: Steve Braunias’ Campaign Diary: Day 9

DAY NINE: IN WHICH GLENN GREENWALD RECEIVES VISITORS AT THE SAD AND DEPRESSING DOTCOM MANSION – AND THE “LITTLE HENCHMAN” CALLS THE PRIME MINISTER A DIRTY LIAR

3 News debate links

Links for last night’s debate between John Key and David Cunliffe.

3 News:

NZ Herald:

Stuff:

 

Cunliffe versus Key – debate #3

Another debate, another round of media obsessed with declaring winners and losers, another reliance on ‘polling’ that is so unscientific it should be eliminated as potentially misleading.

The debate revealed little other than more practiced lines.

Both Key and Cunliffe sounded competent enough at media presentation but both talked over their opponent and squabbled childishly too much.

There was not much indication of how a National led or Labour led Government might look.

The quality of the respective party candidates was totally absent from consideration.

How potential coalitions might look and might work was not examined at all. One party’s policies matter but what might be negotiated post-election is also critical.

What are the chances ACT push National into bringing forward their proposed tax cuts to early in the next term rather than in the third year?

Would Greens push Labour to increase the top tax rate to 38%? The minimum wage to $18?

What Cabinet position might Winston Peters negotiate? Russel Norman? Colin Craig?

I have no more idea now than before any of the three debates Cunliffe and Key have had so far.

I’m no closer to deciding who to vote for.

I doubt many people will have changed their minds after watching last night’s debates.

Pundit perceptions can be quite different to normally how disinterested voters see things.

John Campbell did a reasonable job most but struggled to control the squabbling for superiority (or sneerority)  at times. He closed the debate with a bizarre speech that tried to liken voting in New Zealand in 2014 with standing in front of a tank in China in 1989.

The fourth debate on Sunday is likely to reveal nothing other than more practiced pontificating.

Three year campaign against the Government

We are nearing the end of what has been a near three year campaign against the Government – and remarkably despite all the attempts to disrupt and depose the polls indicate a probable return to a similar combination of parties in a National led government.

Dirty Politics has been just one of many attempts to shake National’s hold on power, with negative campaigning being prevalent.  Labour has tried an official Vote Positive campaign but proxies have continued the anti-Government action.

Anti-Government negative campaigning has included:

Anti-asset sales

Despite National’s ‘asset sales’ being only partial sales of three power companies and an increase in the number of private ownership in Air New Zealand – asset sale lite – there has been sustained campaigning against it through much of the term, including the hijacking of the Citizen Initiated Referendum process for political campaign purposes. National has managed to avoid this campaign continuing into this campaign proper.

John Banks

There has been a number of multi-party attempts to bring down John Banks to remove a pro-Government vote. This was eventually successful but too late to make much difference apart from forcing a renewal of ACT Party personnel. While the end result looks like being no immediate gain for ACT if David Seymour wins Epsom ACT may be in a better position than this term.

Peter Dunne

Although Peter Dunne’s temporary downfall was inflicted by a John key instigated leak inquiry there was a concerted attempt by Labour and particularly Winston Peters to convert this into an ousting of Dunne to again take an important mostly pro-Government vote out of the equation.

GCSB

Significant anti-GCSB campaigning was also anti-Government. This was mostly last year while the revised legislation passed through Parliament but there have been continued protests.

TPPA

Ongoing anti TPPA protests have also been anti-Government.

Education

Ongoing protests against Government education initiatives have continued through the term into the election campaign. This has included campaigning against National Standards, Charter Schools, Christchurch school restructuring and Expert Teacher implementations and proposals. Teacher organisations, especially Primary, are traditionally anti-National and have been running protests during the campaign targeting National.

Get Out The Vote campaigns

Too significant campaigns to get more people out to vote have significant left leanings, one organised by unions and the other by left leaning organisations. These have involved people with strong anti-National rhetoric.

Anti-Poverty

A number of organisations have run anti-poverty campaigns and continue to do this into the election campaign. These have been effectively anti-National.

John Key

Labour and left wing activists have tried to discredit John Key since he rose to take over leadership of National and this continued through the term and into this campaign. Despite Nicky Hager has claimed his Dirty Politics book was not politically motivated nor meddling in the election campaign his primary focus was dirty tricks from the top, implying John Key was directly and heavily involved. Insufficient evidence was produced and while rumours remain that a Jason Ede-Key smoking gun is going to be unleashed it hasn’t happened yet and Hager insists he had access to all the political material.

Judith Collins

Collins has been a target through the term, the email forcing her resignation as a minister only being an unexpected trigger. There were major attempts to discredit her over Oravida earlier this year with reported trips to China by Phil Goff and Winston Peters looking for dirt. In 2012 accusations from Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little resulted in defamation proceedings that were eventually settled out of court.

Kim Dotcom

Dotcom has been called a political wrecking ball. The raid on his residence and subsequent legal action has been linked to both Banks’ and Dunne’s problems, and he has had ongoing confrontations with John Key. This led to him piling millions of dollars into a political party aimed at defeating Key and National in this election. It seems to be more counter-productive with voters seemingly concerned about the very left leaning policies of Internet-Mana being a part of Government.

End Result

We won’t know the end result of all of this until the end of next week, or perhaps a week or two later if coalition negotiations take a while to determine the final makeup of the next Government.

But on current polls National’s steady-as-we-go minimal new policy approach looks to be more popular than the alternative.

The multi-faceted and sustained negative campaigning has so far failed.

Labour’s alarming ignorance about their CGT

Labour have been embarrassed by their lack of detailed knowledge of one of their flagship election policies, Capital Gains Tax.

This blew up in Tuesday’s leader’s debate and “David Cunliffe was flummoxed and admitted yesterday he was unsure of the CGT policy details – even though he wrote it”.

The information on CGT on Labour’s website was sparse. They added a link to more details yesterday.

Stuff reports in Gotcha politics replaces dirty politics.

The row was sparked by Tuesday night’s Press/stuff.co.nz leaders debate when Prime Minister John Key claimed that under Labour 300,000 Kiwis with homes in family trusts would have to pay a capital gains tax. He also said a Labour-Green government would introduce five new taxes.

Opposition leader David Cunliffe was flummoxed and admitted yesterday he was unsure of the CGT policy details – even though he wrote it.

Labour fired back, saying Key was wrong, and re-issued the policy, first announced in 2011. 

As well as ignorance about their own policy Labour have been misleading (deliberately or through ignorance) about tax and property speculators. They have often claimed their policy will target speculators but that is already subject to tax and Labour’s CGT would actually halve the amount of tax payable by speculators.

Dene McKenzie covers this at ODT in Capital gains policy stumbles.

Labour’s capital gains tax policy is starting to unravel as accountants and politicians take aim at the major party policy following a slip-up by Labour leader David Cunliffe.

Cunliffe was caught out twice in tax questions during a leaders debate on Tuesday with Prime Minister John Key.

Mr Key was adamant New Zealand had a capital gains tax in place and then threw a question at Mr Cunliffe about family homes being held in trusts which the Labour leader could not answer.

The question was whether a family home held in a trust would be subject to Labour’s capital gains tax. Labour advisers later said it was exempt although the policy says: ”We will ensure trusts are not used as a means of avoiding a CGT”.

Mr Mason said an interesting point was Mr Cunliffe seeming to suggest CGT would deal to speculators. If that was true, they would be getting a tax cut. At present, they pay tax on the full profit at their marginal rate of say 33%. Under CGT, the tax rate was reduced to 15%.

”I suspect he just doesn’t quite understand how it works at all, as even Labour’s website says: `Assets currently taxed at the individual’s marginal or at the business tax rate will continue to fall under the existing regime’.”

More from Crowe Horwarth tax principal Scott Mason on the CGT:

As to the detail of Labour’s proposed CGT, who would know, he said.

Despite being Labour’s policy for more than three years, the party had released very little detail, instead saying some experts would design the final policy.

”The policy on their website does specifically say they will attack trust structures, so I can see why Mr Key felt concerned and asked the question. Mr Cunliffe’s lack of response during the debate makes one wonder whether the later clarification was policy on the run.”

Perhaps the party did not want the detail released until after the election, Mr Mason said.

Finance Minister Bill English said nowhere in Labour’s CGT policy did it exclude family homes owned by trusts.

Labour was trying to say the test for whether a capital gains tax applied was not whether a trust owned the property but who lived in it.

That would require Inland Revenue to confirm the living arrangements of householders in deciding whether the law would apply.

Ownerships of trusts and ongoing living arrangements can be complex – but not according to Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford in a Herald video.

“Our policy is plain and simple, it always has been. If it’s the family home, capital gains tax doesn’t apply.”

Twyford is contradicted by Labours policy detail which states:

Trust law is complex though, so how we manage this will be decided once we get advice from our Expert Panel.

And Twyford acknowledged that Cunliffe didn’t know a key part of their policy, and Twyford admits needing to be briefed about it for the Herald interview.

Why couldn’t your leader answer ‘no’ last night like you just have when I asked you about Capital Gains Tax, why wasn’t he as knowledgable about that and as definite as you’ve been?

Twyford: Well, it won’t surprise you that I got briefed on that very issue before I came in to see you this morning.

It surprises me that Twyford would have needed briefing on a key part of Labour’s housing related tax policy.

Twyford: You know there’s a lot of policy detail here. The fact is that in that debate John Key was wrong. Our policy is clear, it’s in the manifesto.

Detail wasn’t in the manifesto until after Key raised the issue.

It’s excluding the family home.

Twyford: Absolutely. John Key was wrong. Yeah I’m sure David wishes he’d answered ah more quickly...

Cunliffe didn’t answer until after he was briefed after the debate.

…but these things happen in politics.

Being ignorant of a key part of a key policy that you helped write is not a good thing to happen during an election campaign.

Twyford repeated that Key was wrong – but how could Key or anyone else know what Labour’s leader and Labour’s housing spokesperson seem tonot have known. Labour is leaving it up to an ‘Expert Panel’ to advise them on the complexities. How can he expect Key to know what they might decide?

At the time of the debate the flummoxing of Cunliffe was called a mistake but not as bad as Goff’s “show me the money” hiccup in the last campaign.

Key has highlighted two important things.

He has injected a contentious policy into the election debate, one that Labour has promoted strongly but is vulnerable on, especially when serious doubts have been raised about how it might be applied.

It’s not just an issue regarding family homes, a CGT will impact significantly on small business owners and farmers. It may also apply to shareholders including many Kiwisaver account holders.

The flummoxing of Cunliffe was an unexpected bonus.

But there’s another aspect of a CGT that I haven’t seen addressed – how much impact introducing the tax will have on both the housing market and and on business.

Labour promotes and defends the CGT on the basis that most OECD countries have one (and those countries still have problems with housing markets).

But I haven’t seen any information presented on what impact the introduction of a CGT might have on a modern economy. Australia has had a CGT for 25 years and has significant property inflation right now (I know someone in Brisbane who has just had their property revalued)

How many countries have introduced a similar type of CGT in the last decade? How has that impacted on their housing markets and their business environment?

Won’t a CGT be too complicated to understand and complex to administer?
All but three OECD countries have some form of a CGT. There is a wealth of international experience to draw on and we will learn from the work other countries have done. Labour will also get advice from our Expert Panel to ensure the system is easy to understand and to administer.

“We will learn” – Labour are promoting a policy they have had for two elections and they hope to learn about it? Shouldn’t they they had already learned about it before committing to their proposals?

Shouldn’t they have got Expert Panel advice already so they could “ensure the system is easy to understand and to administer”?

What if their future Expert Panel advises them the system they have proposed will be complex, difficult to understand and difficult to administer?

Labour’s ignorance about key parts of their policy, their ignorance of how their policy will be applied and their seeming ignorance of what impact their CGT will have on housing, business, and investments and savings including Kiwisaver is quite alarming.

More alarming than ‘show me the money’ – Labour are showing us their ignorance.

Key on bloggers

For the first time that I’m aware John Key has condemned Cameron Slater for his apparent involvement in a smear campaign against the Serious Fraud Office as revealed by the email that precipitated the resignation of Judith Collins.

NZ Herald reports PM condemns Slater as Cunliffe slams inquiry:

When questioned, he condemned Mr Slater for his role in what appeared to be a smear campaign on the Serious Fraud Office.

Key also took a swipe at Labour’s use of bloggers:

And he took a swipe at Labour’s failed attempts to dig dirt on him, and at the “three or four” staffers in Mr Cunliffe’s office that wrote in the left-wing blogosphere.

“It’s a known fact that Jason Ede in my office talked to a blogger. There are people in your office who have written on blogs.

“It happens on your side and you know it … and I can name them if you want me to.”

To an extent at least that’s factually correct. For example Clint Smith currently works in Cunliffe’s office (and has worked for the Greens) and has been a Standard author in the past. Mike Smith is a trustee and author at The Standard and last year worked in David Shearer’s office.

The other Standard trustee Lynn Prentice reacted to Key on Twitter:

@thestandard – so far I have heard @johnkeypm impune our site a number of times. Sleazy dirty arsehole – just like @Whaleoil

I asked “You wouldn’t impune another site at all, would you Lynn?”

Nope. I impune people. Particularly those obsessing on ours. Looks at your tags.

He had just referred to @Whaleoil as a “Sleazy dirty arsehole” – while that Twitter handle is used by Cameron Slater ‘Whale Oil’ is a blog site.

And Prentice frequently criticises blogs. Like in The desperation of the National’s sockpuppets:

Then lo and behold within a week, it turns up on one of the Nationally funded blogs like Kiwiblog or Whaleoil. Still unverified. Still without proof. Still not a story that any journalist would touch because it would violate the press council rules.

And on Wakeup call for the media – has Slater done us all a favour?

Like a laser, a non-story would pumped back and forth between Whaleoil and Kiwiblog, each remarking on what the other had said, until journos started to write stories about “allegations” raised by the blogs.

The arseholes of the net will choose to hang off the self-destructive like Slater or dive into the older sewer at Kiwiblog. The more rational will come here or to Public Address or Transport Blog where the conversations may be robust but their comments can be heard.

Prentice raises some valid points especially in his post The desperation of the National’s sockpuppets but also makes unsubstantiated assertions about blogs, especially regarding the funding of them.

Prentice has a history of denying links between Labour and The Standard but they don’t stack up – see:

It was significant that Key finally publicly condemned Slater in last night’s debate, albeit on one specific issue and not for Whale Oil’s wider efforts to undermine opponents, democracy and political debate. Key has failed to condemn enough, but at least this is a start.

Expect Slater to react today.

Key also poked a stick at Labour’s connection with blogs that provoked a typical reaction of denial from Prentice. At least Key has made a start in acknowledging condemning dirty blogger politics.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 237 other followers