Peters – kingmaker or King Cranky?

I had a brief hope that his win in Northland would give Winston Peters a new challenge in his old stomping ground, where he could work out his swan song for the good of his own people.

But it doesn’t appear that his focus was on one electorate. His reaction over the last couple of days is a confusion of king-maker and King.

He seems to think an electorate win in Northland means he can now call all the shots in Wellington.

And he seems to despise Johnny-come-lately Key holding the reins of power…

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says Prime Minister John Key is “acting like a spoilt brat” by saying he doubted Mr Peters would work constructively with National.

“I’m not going to have Mr Key roaring when his toys have been taken out of the cot, as they were last Saturday, making these sort of protestations. What you’re getting now is protestations of innocence and good faith which don’t exist. The National Party has not come to us.”

…along with anyone who might compete as king-maker.

Mr Peters’ win has meant National can no longer rely on only Act to pass legislation, giving increased influence to United Future’s Peter Dunne and the Maori Party.

However, Mr Peters said he had no intention of letting those parties flex their muscle. “I’ve made it very clear that we didn’t slog it out up north to have them in any way think they are going to be the beneficiaries of it. No way will Peter Dunne, the Act Party or Maori Party be allowed to behave in this way.”

NZ Herald

He’s going to somehow make Key work with him (by abusing him) and exclude the three parties with a proven willingness to work constructively with National?

Key isn’t going to roll over for Peters like Little did – talking about that, Labour seeks closer relationship with NZ First:

Little told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report on Tuesday that it had been weeks since he had met with Peters, but he intended to do so this week.

“As leader of the Opposition, it’s my job to forge as best a relationship as possible with all the parties,” he said.

“I’ve been working with the Greens and will work more closely with NZ First now the by-election is out of the way.”

Little got sucked in and spat out by Peters in Northland, and his response was to roll over thinking it would somehow benefit Labour. Peters will barely waste time sneering at that naivety.

He seems to think he’s not just Leader of the Opposition but also the newly anointed King (Cranky).

Of a very childish variety. His performance in Parliament today was farcical from his first word, which was “Boo!”

Key understands Peters far better than Little. Just after the by-election: Winston won’t play ball: Key

“For the most part, if we are in favour of something, he is opposed,” Mr Key said from Melbourne last night.

“We’re always more than happy to talk to him and we’ve tried in the past and we’re certainly happy to try in the future.”

But Mr Key was not hopeful.

He said Mr Peters had made a lot of commitments to the people of Northland during the by-election campaign.

“He has told them he is going to change their lives, so what I am telling him is that if he is really genuine about that, that it won’t happen through rhetoric, it will happen through action.

“If he wants to be part of that, then we are happy to work with him, but history tells you that that is not his strong suit.”

It’s not just history tells you that. Today in Parliament:

I’m not sure that’s the sort of message Northland meant. Peters acts like he’s too big for Parliament let alone one wee electorate in the far north.

It looks like just a game to him, and if today is any indication of his approach to his new responsibilities then he doesn’t want anyone else with the ball – except for a compliant media lobbing lollipop microphones in his direction.

Northland may have been sucked in as much as Little and Labour. How soon voters’ remorse?

The Whale Oil agenda

I’ll use the name ‘Whale Oil’ at times here because it’s difficult (or maybe not) to know who has written posts under the name ‘Cameron Slater’.

Since the publication of Dirty Politics, the demotion of Judith Collins and the isolation of Slater from John Key and most of the National caucus Whale Oil has adjusted it’s main agenda.

A number of times Whale Oil has pointed out that Prime Minister’s come and go but Whale Oil is in politics for the long game.

Now it looks like Whale Oil and it’s preferred MPs don’t have much influence or future under Key the best way of shortening the long game is to shorten Key’s tenure.

This could be achieved by helping force Key to resign. Otherwise it means accepting a Labour led government for a term and getting National back in with the right (and further right) MPs in positions of power, preferably as PM.

Over the past few months there have been many posts at Whale Oil that have criticised and tried to discredit the Key Government and anyone deemed loyal to Key, including Bill English and Steven Joyce.

The agenda seems to have kicked into another gear spinning off the Northland by-election debacle.

Whale Oil often tries the mass and persistent post approach like this cluster so far today:

The Queensland Premier is going to expel the wife-beating MP, even though that will threaten her razor-thin majority.

A totally different approach to the “Allegations? What allegations? I can’t heeeeaarrr you lalalalala” Key strategy on Sabin.

Northland was a disaster, one which Joyce, de Joux and Bennett have to own, and unfortunately some of that dung flying is going to splatter on the front of John Key’s shirt…he is the boss after all.

Note not just current enemies Key and Joyce but future competition Bennett.

But National will not gain another list MP to compensate for the loss following the shock resignation of Northland’s former MP Mike Sabin.

This is the result of Steve Joyce’s brilliant Northland strategy…and for some reason he is being protected.

MPs and Ministers have been sacked for less.

Caucus tomorrow will either be a slug-fest or Silence of the Lambs…if MPs sit there and take the excuses and don;t say anything then they have resigned themselves to a loss in 2017 and the demoralisation and rot really will have set in.

A party in good heart will have a big donnybrook, and some claret will get spilled and a solution found for the way forward. Anything else will show that National’s caucus are more like Pavlov’s dogs than anything else.

Trying to talk up “a slug-fest” and “a big donnybrook”, ironic after the weekend’s very one-sided and brief boxing bout.

This is the most significant political defeat Mr Key has ever faced. He’d warned his politicians last year not to succumb to third-term arrogance.

But that is what this looks like. National assumed it would have Northland in the bag so it put up a novice candidate.

It’s a tough lesson for the Government. It’ll be rubbed in on Tuesday when Parliament sits again.

Quite a theme developing, even on posts not immediately obviously on the same agenda..

John Key and Steve Joyce need to start showing something other than arrogance…or things are going to go from bad to worse really fast.

Like in a slug-fest in caucus tomorrow?

But this sort of complacency is bred by arrogance…and if they haven’t learned from the shellacking Winston Peters handed out to them on the weekend then there is more pain to come.

John Key is a fool if he thinks that he can be “philosophical” over the result. He can’t.

I share some of these views – but I’m not promoting a faction of National.

A “reader”? I wonder which reader.

Following Mike Sabin’s resignation for “personal reasons” an astute opposition would be asking John Key is he protecting any other MPs or Party office holders who have suppression orders over criminal acts?

There is no excuse for covering up criminal acts or even unconscionable ratbag behaviour, and John Key would have a huge problem if he has covered up any other offenders.

It’s not clear if this is promoting some new dirt or if it’s part of a long-running campaign against a certain party official that has clashed with the Slater dynasty.

Expect a barrage like this to continue, possibly for days, or weeks. Whale Oil tends more towards persisent than subtle.

Is this opportunist off the by-election debacle?

That’s where things get interesting. One of a number of National’s mistakes in the by-election was their choice of candidate. Many of asked how on earth they selected such an ill-suited person as Mark Osborne.

It almost looks like self-sabotage.

There was a sub-agenda running on Whale Oil during the selection process – a dirty personal campaign against one of the favoured candidates. Personal and very dirty in what is usually a no-go area in politics, involving the person’s family. The target ended up not being selected.

Curiously despite those pre-selection attacks Whale Oil chose to wait until after the by-election to dump on Osborne.

NOW THAT IT’S OVER, LET’S SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT MARK OSBORNE

Mark Orborne was, is and remains seriously out of his depth.

Sadly, you’re not up to it.   You’ll go down in history as the man who took a 9300 majority and lost.  Your political career lasted four weeks.  As you’ve discovered, politics is brutal, and you are like a baby playing on the motorway

(That sounds like Slater talking). Why has he waited until afterwards to criticise an obviously ill-fated candidate? Maybe because he was happy to see Osborne stand?

Just after Osborne was selected he got a passing mention in SOME THOUGHTS ON WINSTON AND NORTHLAND:

TV3 commissioned this poll literally just hours after Mark Osborne had been selected for National. He is an unknown to the wider electorate.

Most of the post was talking down Winston’s chances, like “So will Winston win? Personally I don’t think so” and “Frankly Winston is past it.” But also:

Can Winston win? Of course he can…then watch the political blackmail start…and it won’t be for the benefit of Northlanders.

I presume Winston was the one suggested as a political blackmailer.

But perhaps that’s how Whale thinks about politics. And not necessarily be for the benefit of National.

And while I was putting together this post there’s another post at Whale Oil.

What is interesting is that there are complaints from inside caucus that they had to fund the campaign but they were not given any information about the polls.   

They picked up information through back channels and this blog, but the campaign team decided against sharing them with the people who paid for them.

Having a centralised campaign team that taxes electorates to fund their campaign is ok as long as you keep winning.

When you lose a race you should have won, and lose it through making stupid, unforced errors, your supporters start looking at you pretty hard.

And they want answers to how you are using their money, and why you keep taxing them without sharing information.

Factional agendas played out on public forums can be interesting. Factionalism was a major factor in keeping Labour out in the political wilderness.

It can also be a sign of a failing Government as self-interest and survival kicks in.

Publicly stoking factionalism can also be a way of speeding up failure.

Who knows if this is the Whale Oil agenda?

UPDATE: they’re coming thick and fast today:

The teflon has worn off the Key frying pan and now stuff is starting to stick…it might have taken 8 years or so, but it is happening. To deny it is foolhardy.

That’s ten posts (at least) on a common theme today.

National in denial over vote haemorrhage

While it was ‘only a by-election’ National haemorrhaged votes in Northland – 7000 of them. And they had a seat amputated.

But campaign mastermind Steven Joyce (“we lost some of our votes”) and party leader John Key (“bled a little”) are in public denial

Steven Joyce on The Nation:

Winston Peters said, ‘Send them a message.’ What message have you heard?

Joyce: Oh, well, obviously, you know, we lost the election. And so there is a number of messages. I actually thought he campaigned pretty well. He got out in front at the start and stayed there, and we worked to try and close that gap, actually made some progress but ran out of runway. I thought Mark campaigned pretty well, but we didn’t get there in the end.

Before the by-election started National were a way out in front. They owned the runway. By the time Peters had put himself forward and Mark Osborne was selected National had lost a big lead.

Joyce: I look at it, and if you go through it, you know, we had of the opposition votes swinging in behind Winston, but we also lost some of our votes. And there’s reasons for that, and we’ll need to reflect on that, and I think we’ll reflect on it in a pretty clear-headed sort of way.

No sign of that yet.

So you’re not hearing a National message in this? You’ve heard a local message; you don’t think there is a National overarching message that people are starting to tire, that it’s third-term-itis, basically?

Joyce: No, I don’t think so.

In denial.

Yeah, and last week you sat here and you said that this was not just about who people were going to vote for in Northland; it was about what they were going to vote for. And you said they would be voting for strong and stable government. By definition, then, and by your own definition, your government is less strong and less stable now, isn’t it?

Well, it’s back to where we were between 2011 and 2014. As you point out yourself, one less seat means that we’re in virtually an identical position as to we were then. And that makes some things more challenging.

‘It’ may be back to where they were last term overall but Northland has gone backwards for them big time and arguably so has National’s credibility. And Joyce’s credibility.

Did you get the wrong guy? I mean, did you get the wrong person for the job? Because that does happen. That’s no slight on Mark Osborne, but was he the wrong person for this job?

Joyce: I don’t think so.

In denial.

And was that too slow at the very least?

Joyce: Well, possibly. It’s one of the things we’ll definitely look at, because, frankly, we ran out of time. I’ve said that to you previously. That was the risk, and that’s what happened. We did run out of time to get him over the line, and so we’ll go back and look at all of that.

There was talk in National circles of an inevitable by-election at least as far back as December. National didn’t run out of time, they tried to deny a Sabin problem and seem to have presumed they would hold Northland comfortably by going through the motions, belatedly. And got caught with their pants down. And their support down with it.

And John Key on One News:

But it does also mean that Northland doesn’t want National.

Key: No, if you actually look at the National voters, this is the interesting thing, we bled a little bit of support to Winston peters, probably not as much as people think. Um so we lost a little bit. We our vote actually held up.

We moved Mark Osborne, our first poll had him at 30 percent, our internal poll, and we got him to 40 percent.

Twenty two points backwards, ten points forwards is not “bled a little bit”.

  • 2005 John Carter 16,577 (54.12%)
  • 2008 John Carter 19,889 (59.14%)
  • 2011 Mike Sabin 18,188 (57.55%)
  • 2014 Mike Sabin 18,269 (52.74%)
  • 2015 Mark Osborne 11,347 (39.92%)

Nor did their vote actually hold up. It haemorrhaged and National don’t think a tourniquet is necessary.

Steven Joyce and John Key have become isolated from reality with no sign of that changing – instead they are actively in denial.

This isn’t a good sign for their chances in 2017.

Will John Key decide to stand aside and allow a fresh approach?

If not, will he recognise that Steven Joyce has badly misjudged Northland and look for someone with a hold on reality to take over deciding and running the party strategy?

Or will they just continue their denial? If so they may run out of time to get over the line in 2017.

Every step backwards in the credibility race is very difficult to claw back.

Key appears to ignore 7,000 lessons

So far, since the weekend’s by-election debacle, it looks like John Key hasn’t taken on board 7,000 votes lost in Northland.

Winston won’t play ball: Key

Prime Minister John Key does not believe Winston Peters will be any more willing to work with National now he is the Northland MP than he has been before, saying he is the sort of politician who regards Opposition co-operation with the Government as a failure.

“For the most part, if we are in favour of something, he is opposed,” Mr Key said from Melbourne last night.

“We’re always more than happy to talk to him and we’ve tried in the past and we’re certainly happy to try in the future.”

But Mr Key was not hopeful.

That’s a very disappointing negative reaction frm Key.

Things have changed substantially for Peters, thanks to Key’s and National’s ongoing mistakes.

And so far it looks like Key is choosing to change nothing. At his peril, and at National’s peril. And potentially at the country’s peril.

Peters may or may not try to rise above petty politics, but he has a mandate to be given a chance.

If Key is negative about it before trying the signs look bad for him and National, because it increases the chances of them getting the blame.

Failing to acknowledge and respond to 7,000 lessons is a disappointing reaction and just adds to a growing aura of arrogance.

The onus is on Key to repair the damage.

How National can show they’ve learned from Northland

There’s many lessons National could learn from their Northland debacle.They’re at real risk of falling out of favour with the nationwide electorate unless they are seen to have learned, and are seen to rectify the exposed shortcomings.

These numbers in particular should be food for thought.

  • SABIN, Mike 18,269 (September 2014)
  • OSBORNE, Mark 11,347 (March 2015)

That’s about 7,000 fewer people voting for the National candidate, despite a massive campaign effort including blatant election bribing and scare tactics. And despite the fact that most people never expected Winston Peters to deliver on many some major promises he made.

Safe seats and safe vote levels aren’t safe. If pissed off enough many voters will punish politicians and parties in the only way they can, and that’s what has happened in Northland.

OnTheCanvas

Slater. Osborne. National in Northland.
Key and National in 2017?

There’s two things they could do straight away that would indicate they have learned and they are prepared to act on a strong message sent by the voters of Northland.

1. Be up front and honest about when they knew about the police investigation of Mike Sabin

John Key’s and National ministers’ refusal to be open and honest about when they learned about Mike Sabin being under investigation has been arrogant and dishonest, and has proven very damaging to their Northland campaign. And to their nationwide credibility.

And it is likely to get worse when details go public. Information is widely known but if the media and other parties become unconstrained by legal suppression then Key and National will be hammered even harder. Unless they own up and front foot this, albeit belatedly.

John Key needs to lead on this and be open and honest about when he knew and when his office knew and when his Ministers knew.

Otherwise the impression of him lying to hide a dirty secret will linger on and keep damaging him and National.

2. Show that they will genuinely engage with Winston Peters and NZ First on Northland and regional issues

Winston Peters won a resounding victory in Northland. Voters there expect something for it, and if they don’t get what they want National should struggle to win back what should have been a relatively safe seat. Peters has indicated he will stand again in 2017.

Genuinely working with Peters on Northland issues will recover some support and credibility in the north. Peters may still hold the seat – if he reciprocates and genuinely works with the National government – but National have a party vote to protect.

And if National shuns Peters and NZ First it will look like petty punishment of them and of many voters.

Peters has a major mandate in Northland. NZ First have 11 MPs (and could get a twelfth, Peters hasn’t decided whether to drop out of his list position and bring in another MP yet).

Key and National have to show they are prepared to put wider Northland interests and democratic interests ahead of political pettiness (as do Peters and NZ First).

And if they don’t?

If National don’t show they’ve learned lessons from their hammering then they could get hammered on a wider scale in 2017.

They were helped in the 2011 and 2014 elections by the weakness of the alternative. But Winston Peters showed that if a Government does badly enough and is arrogant enough then voters will reject them and take their chances on an alternative.

If National don’t demonstrate they are prepared to act on and rectify lessons learnt in Northland then they could get thrashed in 2017.

And they should be addressing this straight away, demonstratively. Or voters will think they haven’t learned or that they think people will forget their failures and mistakes.

National can and should show they’ve learnt from their Northland debacle – if they want to stem a massive loss of confidence in them.

UPDATE: it looks like Key is planning on continuing to sweep Sabin under the National rug.

“The Mark Sabin situation is something we can’t adequately talk about” – Key on Northland loss

There are some aspects he could talk about if he chose to be honest and up front.

Human Headline: “WARNING: for legal reasons access to this page is illegal in New Zealand”

The Official Derryn Hinch Webstite Human Headline is based in Australia so isn’t covered by New Zealand suppression orders (Hinch is a prominent ex New Zealander who has a radio show Hinch Live).

From time to time he has put up posts with warnings like this:

WARNING: for legal reasons, access to this page is illegal in New Zealand

I don’t know the law well enough so don’t know if that is correct. Every individual must judge for themselves whether they should heed Hinch’s warnings.

He has this warning on his latest post:

HinchWarningThat’s an image so you can’t follow the link from here as that may be illegal.

But it highlights the difficulty suppression orders have in the Internet age.

Is the Key Government terminal?

All Governments are terminal, their demise is inevitable. But once they start to look terminal then the voters are likely to be getting close to terminating their tenure.

HammerCoffin

Cameron Slater is very pissed off about being marginalised by John Key and the national organisation, and he’s pissed off his leader of the future Judith Collins was smacked down (in reality her actions last year looked terminal, her demotion was if anything overdue).

But he’s been around politics since he was a boy so knows a bit about it outside his personal ambitions. Yesterday he posted THE WANING OF KEY’S NATIONAL: THE ARROGANCE AND IRONY.

That title has it’s own irony given Slater’s own arrogance and his waning influence. But there’s some truth to some of what he says about Key’s Government.

They are now disconnected from real people.

When John Key is out there, he only sees crackpots and sycophants.  He’s had so much of it, he can’t even recognise when someone turns up with something genuine and important.  The same for his MPs.

Worse, factions that have always existed in caucus but were all working together have now changed to work on their own medium and long term aims.  The PM and his dream team are no longer told the truth by MPs.  If there is anything that can help John Key, he’s not told if it comes from a faction that doesn’t want him to know.

He’s now surrounded by people that he trusts, because they have delivered the goods previously.  But he doesn’t realise that it is much more subtle than that.  Previously, when someone in another faction saw that the PM might trip up on something, they would have warned him.  But now, they’ll just keep silent and let him trip up.

Sabin is a case in point.  If we are to believe John Key, and let’s assume he doesn’t lie for a moment, he didn’t know there was a problem.   Everyone else was keeping this information from him.  He’s either incredibly incompetent, or he was set up to fail.  And we know he’s not incompetent.

There is a lot of soft information that is swirling around all the time, and if you’re disconnected from it, you start flying politically blind.  We’ve seen it with Cunliffe.  We’re seeing it with Andrew Little.  And now we’re seeing it with John Key.

John Key has isolated himself, not just from me, but from many other voices that he previously allowed to come through.

Nobody told him what to do, but at least he had the wealth of information to consider when picking a path.

These days, he listens only to a few people, and asks questions through polls.   Problem with that is that unless you ask the right questions, the answers aren’t worth much.

For John Key fans, this is particularly sad news.  He’s been the garlic to the Leftie vampires, and we all get a bit nervous at the though that Johnnie the Leftie Slayer has lost his touch.   The stability we’ve felt for the years is now crumbling, and we don’t know what will happen next.

There’s certainly signs of crumbling. It may not be terminal, but once the crumbling sets in it’s difficult to reverse, especially when there seems to be a lack of awareness of the problems.

I’m sorry to tell you that the rot cannot be reversed.

There can be partial reversals but overall It can’t be reversed from the minute a new Government takes office. Minor ups and downs eventually become a death rattle.

It’s a matter of time, specially how long the can keep recovering from setbacks largely of their own making.

Even if everyone involved intellectually acknowledges it, it has a momentum of its own.  It is part of a cycle.  Just as David Cunliffe could not prevent what happened to him, John Key cannot prevent what is to happen to him.

There will be an end to it – be it in months or years.  We all know it can’t last.   But we need to look beyond it, and worry about succession planning.   Labour have been a brilliant example where Helen Clark left such a vacuum that Labour have still not recovered from it nearly a decade later.

This is where Slater’s agenda kicks in. He wants his own pet politicians (clients) to come to the fore in succession planning. He wants to be a person of political influence again – without being elected.

Slater often says that Prime Ministers come and they go but that  he’s in it for the long haul. He may or may not recover his mojo. Same for Judith Collins who mayh struggle to recover from the taint of her association with him.

But regardless of his ambitions and ego the terminal aspect of John Key’s Government is not just starting to look terminal, they don’t seem to be able to shake the death rattle.

Key may not be good at hammering nails in election signs but the signs are he’s hammering nails in his political coffin.

KeyHammerNail

John Key hammering a nail – is this a sign?

Turei versus Key on feeding kids in schools

There was a continuation of a running battle between Metiria Turei and John Key in Question Time today.

Later after a “feed the kids bill in her name (that she took over from as Hone Harawira) was defeated in Parliament by 59 votes to 61 at its first reading, @metiria tweeted:

John Key today turned his back on hungry kids.

A second bill on feeding kids at school is also being voted on. NZ Herald:

Meanwhile another food in schools bill in the name of Labour MP David Shearer is set to be defeated tonight at its first reading as well.

The bill allowed for free food in all primary and intermediate decile one to three schools that wanted.

However during his research on the bill, Mr Shearer came across several schools that changed his thinking including Yendarra School in Otara, and Owairaka District School, which took a community approach to food in schools.

“I have become convinced that free food solves nothing,” he has said.

“I now believe that each school community should be resourced to find and deliver its own long-term food solutions.”

He still wanted the bill sent to a select committee so it could be reworked.

It failed 60-60 despite Peter Dunne supporting it: Vote on that Members Bill (David Shearer’s Feed The Kids) was tied 60-60. Under Standing Order 153, a tied vote is lost.

This is not an issue of feeding hungry kids or not, it’s a matter of how much and how kids should be given food in schools. The Question Time exchange illustrates this.

[Sitting date: 18 March 2015. Volume:704;Page:5. Text is subject to correction.]

4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the principals of decile 1 to 4 schools he has visited have told him “the number of children in those schools who actually require lunch is the odd one or two”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes , because that is what principals have told me.

Metiria Turei : How can it be correct that only the odd one or two kids in low-decile schools require lunch when KidsCan says that, on average, 23 percent of the children in the schools it works with are in need of lunch every day?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I believe it to be true, and one of the issues I raised with the Minister of Education today was to ask her whether she, in her travels as the Minister of Education in the last 3½ years, had had the issue of lunch in schools raised with her. She told me that it has either never been raised or has been raised extremely infrequently.

Metiria Turei : Is the Prime Minister telling the House that the low-decile schools that he has visited do not have the same needs as other low-decile schools that KidsCan works with?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What I am telling the member is that, firstly, the Government has been working with a number of private sector organisations to provide breakfast in schools, and about 800—791, I think—schools out of 2,500, approximately, have taken that up. Secondly, I think there will be some children who go to school without lunch, but I think that number is actually relatively small. In some cases it will be one or two; in some cases it will be a few more, but I do not think it is as widespread as the member is purporting it to be.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from KidsCan showing that it is now feeding 15,000 students a week across 448 schools, an average of 33 children in each—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document is now being described. The date of the document would be useful.

Metiria Turei : The date of the document is 3 March 2015.

Mr SPEAKER : March 2015—is there any objection to that information being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document prepared by my office on the schools that John Key visited from 2013 to 2014, showing that of the decile 1 schools and decile—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. This is an effective way of making a political statement. It does not have the purpose of informing the House. It will not be tabled.

Metiria Turei : Which of the decile 1 and 2 schools that John Key visited—Māngere Central, Waimate Main, Flaxmere, Huntly, Huntly College, Manaia View, Pt England—told him that only one or two of their kids needed feeding every day, when each of those schools have a lunch programme provided by either KidsCan or some other charity in their community?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, by definition, I suppose, if they already have lunch provided, then actually they would not raise the fact that they need lunch, so that is rather self-defeating. Secondly, it may be lost on the member, but I have been the Prime Minister since the end of 2008. The question the member asked was for the 1 year from 2013. But in the interests of trying to get to the bottom of this debate, at 1.41 this afternoon I took the liberty of ringing the Minister of Education. I said: “Please ring for me three schools that are decile 1 or 2 and ask them how many kids have not come to school today with lunch.” That was done completely randomly and with no information. Here are the facts. Phillip Heeney of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou , Ruatōria, a decile 1 school—people are free to ring the school—

Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! Every member has a right to raise a point of order. It will be heard in silence—[Interruption ] Order! The member will resume her seat. I repeat, because I was interrupted, that every member has a right to raise a point of order. This one will be heard in silence, but I sincerely hope that it is a valid point of order.

Metiria Turei : That was not an answer to the question that I asked. I asked—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat. It is very much an answer to the question the member asked. She can shake her head, but it is me who has got to adjudicate on this. It was a very full answer; it was quite a lengthy question. The House will later on today devote a considerable amount of time to this issue, and I feel it is in the interests of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to complete his answer.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said, at 1.41 p.m., with absolutely no knowledge, these are the facts. At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou school, Ruatoria, decile 1, how many children came to school today without lunch—answer, zero. Barbara Ala’Alatoa, Sylvia Park School, decile 2—one to two kids, maybe. Iain Taylor, Manurewa Intermediate—decile 1 school, roll of 711—maybe 12. Yes, there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.

Metiria Turei : So why, then, did the Prime Minister refuse my invitation to visit Windley School this morning, where we fed with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, some 50 kids at lunchtime; where Windley School says it feeds some 50 every day, Kelvin Road School some 50 every day; Cosgrove Primary up to 40 kids every day; Hay Park around 12 kids lunch every day; and Kelston Girls’, which was recently on Campbell Live showing just how serious the problem is—why will he not come with me to visit those schools that do have a problem so that he can see it for himself?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said to the member last week when she was trying to tell this House that 90 percent of children went to school without lunch, and had to then come back and apologise for being wrong, I am happy to go to a school of my choosing. Secondly, I note that the member, when she tweeted the picture, did so with an apron for the KickStart Breakfast programme that the Government is running. This is a Government that has provided 3.4 million breakfasts. This is a Government that is working with the private sector to help deliver that, from Fonterra through to Sanitarium. They are the same breakfast programmes where principals tell me—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer now is long enough.

Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library showing that the GST on $1.29 is 19c not 2c.

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the purpose of tabling documents is to inform the proceedings of the House. Members know current GST rates. I am not about to put that leave.

Metiria Turei : Why does the Prime Minister continue to mock and downplay the seriousness of the problem, maintaining yet again that only the odd one or two kids need lunch at school when schools know he is wrong, KidsCan knows he is wrong, and more important, the kids who come to school hungry know he is wrong?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government has been very focused on this issue for a long period of time. It is actually proud of its record. It has extended Fruit in Schools for a huge number of children. It provides breakfasts in schools alongside the private sector. This is an issue that, as I said to the member and I repeat again, I raise with pretty much every school I go to, and the same response is what I always get—about 15 percent of kids want to take up the breakfast programme, a very small number need lunch, and when they come to school without lunch the school provides them with lunch. It does so out of its breakfast programme for the odd lunch it provides. At the end of the day I think the member actually does a disservice to the fantastic parents and caregivers out there, the overwhelming bulk of whom actually do provide their kids with breakfast and lunch. They do a damn good job, and the member should stop telling them that they do not.

Metiria Turei : Given that the Prime Minister missed the opportunity this morning to talk with parents, charity workers, and the kids over a lunch programme, will he commit to visiting Windley School—and if not Windley School then to any school that KidsCan suggests he goes to visit—and making the peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the kids—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! The question is too long. The Prime Minister can answer the essence of the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have been to numerous schools where KidsCan has been in operation. I have been to those schools with Julie on numerous occasions. This is actually the Government that gave KidsCan $500,000 more for raincoats, and $900,000 more to deal with headlice. We are providing extensive support. But I will say this. I went to one of the schools where every child was given a raincoat, and, yes, we fully supported that. The argument around that is that children do not have raincoats. So I actually asked about 20 of the kids: “Do you own a raincoat?” Every single child told me: “Yes.” So it is great they have got another one, and we support KidsCan and we are giving them money, and we think they are a great charity, and they are doing good work, but just because you give kids a raincoat does not mean they did not own one beforehand.

ODT: Transparency vital in a democracy

The Otago Daily Times editorial today is on the National Government and Transparency vital in a democracy.

Watching the Government’s desperate lolly scramble as it tries to shore up votes in the Northland by-election has made uncomfortable viewing.

The big guns are being brought out to bolster support for National candidate Mark Osborne, with visits by Prime Minister John Key and a raft of other ministers.

Critics view the Government’s sudden interest in the province with scepticism.

With good cause, what National are piling into Northland hints of abuse of power and misuse of taxpayers’ money.

Voters are left wondering what can be taken at face value, and some critics suggest obfuscation has gone beyond pattern to habit.

Yes, that seems to have become the expected norm. Not a good look for a Government in it’s third term.

The editorial details a number of examples of questionable actions and inaction over reasonable disclosure, then concludes:

There are times when information is genuinely required to be withheld to keep New Zealanders safe, some sensitive negotiations are required to be done away from the public, and some comments may be inappropriate to make in a police or legal case.

But regularly providing obscure, incomplete, or partly true answers to questions inevitably results in ”boy that cried wolf” scenarios.

Trust is fundamental to any individual or government, transparency essential for any democracy, and robust oversight mechanisms and a free and active press equally crucial (particularly when there are claims the former two are lacking).

Mr Key and his Government would do well to remember that as they ask Northland voters to trust them and make more promises for the future.

Trust can be difficult to maintain during an extended term in Government. It tends to get whittled away.

Once lost trust is much more difficult to get back. John Key is struggling with this.

He has to be seen to significantly change direction meaningfully towards far better openness and transparency or he will keep gradually sliding out of favour with voters.

Transparency is vital in a decent democracy.

Mike Sabin uncovered

Whoops, your slip is showing.

SabinUncovered

Posted on Twitter by - it appears to be authentic but if not it’s a clever reveal.

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