The elusive surplus threatens poverty measures

It looks like the Government won’t make their promised surplus next year due to reduced tax take and pressure from reducing milk prices.

NZ Herald reported No surplus this year – Treasury

Treasury this morning delivered a body blow to the Government’s hopes of returning to surplus, saying it now expects a deficit of over half a billion dollars for the June financial year.

At this morning’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, Acting Treasury Secretary Vicky Robertson said despite solid growth in the economy, the Crown’s finances would take a hit from lower than previously forecast tax take.

That had seen Treasury change its forecast operating balance before gains and losses (Obegal) for the 2014-15 year from a slim surplus of $297 million to a deficit of $572 million.

Treasury said softer outlook for economic drivers of the tax such as lower dairy prices and interest rates had seen the expected tax take for the year fall by $600 million.

The changed forecast isn’t a big deal on it’s own, changing economic conditions and revisions are to be expected.

Unless there’s a significant turn around and the surplus is achieved this is embarrassing for National and Bill English who have put a lot of emphasis on reaching a surplus after some very difficult years since the Global Financial Crisis.

Generally English deserves a lot of credit for managing the country’s finances prudently, this played a significant part in National doing so well in the election.

But English has not been so prudent on two counts – staking so much of his reputation on reaching a surplus by 2015, and leaving no room for mistakes or unexpected changes in his last budget.

English cut the surplus too fine, leaving virtually no margin for a negative change. Mr Reliable gambled and looks like losing this bet.

It isn’t a major problem for National at this stage of the electoral cycle. But it will make their promise to address poverty in next year’s budget challenging.

Collins should return as Minister but Williamson unlikely

In an interview on One News’ Breakfast yesterday John Key indicated the chances of Judith Collins and Maurice Williamson returning to ministerial positions.

Somebody who does have a closer relationship with Cameron Slater, no doubt ongoing, is Judith Collins…

John Key: Yeah.

…and it make have been what, you know, what led to her demise effectively by the end of it but we know it was. 

John Key: Yeah.

Tell us about you know you have opened the door a wee bit since being re-elected, or rather since she was cleared…

John Key: Yes.

…to saying one day we’ll see her back. What about herself and Maurice Williamson, I mean realistically   2015, could that be a year that one or both of them could be back up there in the powerhouse with you?

John Key: It’s possible. I mean I think if you take, they’re in different situations probably in their career.

I mean Maurice is getting near the end of his career, um, he’s been a very good Minister …

But he has shown that he would quite like…

John Key: Yeah yeah and he’d like and he’d like, look I think he’d like to do other things. I mean but I’m just saying he’s, I think he’s our longest serving MP, um it doesn’t mean he hasn’t got lots of other good things to do, I’m just slightly different stages.

A fairly clear signal that Williamson should be looking for other things to do.

John Key: In the case of Judith, Judith was a very good Minister. You know people, people attack her and criticise her and yep, she had the persona of being Crusher Collins if you like, but lots of political parties have people that have, you know a slightly tougher personality.

I mean it didn’t stop Trevor Mallard from being a Minister the whole way through, and lots of other people.

The point is that she was actually cleared of the very thing that she stood down for. So can she come back? I think the answer to that is yes.

It sounds like Collins will be strongly considered the next time Key reshuffles his Cabinet. That’s likely to be about a year away at least, unless there’s a resignation in the meantime.

The ‘Dirty Politics’ dead horse versus a positive future

The “Dirty Politics” campaign initiated by Nicky Hager’s book dominated a big chunk of the election campaign but it backfired, probably helping John Key and National win as close to one party power that we’ve seen under MMP.

It political scalp of Judith Collins but an inquiry has since cleared her of any serious misconduct, leaving the way open for her to climb back into cabinet next time there’s an opportunity. And her demotion also probably helped more than hindered National’s campaign.

There are significant problems for those who think it’s worth continuing with the largely failed campaign.

  • There is scant substantive evidence and unlikely to be any more.
  • Outside the activist and media bubbles most people don’t care about it.
  • There’s a significant chance of a legal backlash if the hacker is prosecuted, and if associates prove to be political embarrassments.

‘Dirty Politics’ has already missed most of it’s target and in fact backfired as Tracey Watkins and Vernon Small conclude in One bumpy ride of an election:

THE BIG BACKFIRE Hager and Key’s opponents hoped Dirty Politics would put the skids under National’s campaign. It had the opposite effect, driving up support for Key and ensuring National voters turned out in force. A post-election inquiry linked the former boss of the Security Intelligence Service and central figures in Key’s office to an attempt to discredit Labour MP Phil Goff. Would it have made a difference to the outcome if the inquiry had emerged before the election? Probably not.

What now? ‘Dirty Politics’ failed to produce anywhere near enough damning evidence, and it seems that all shots have been fired from that side of the battle lines.

Re-thrashing a dead horse is not likely to be productive. It’s more likely to be counter-productive for Andrew Little to do any more than pop wee reminders into other more substantive discussions.

A Bryce Edwards headline summarises the dirty hubris – A year of controversies that didn’t matter

Most significant of all was Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics, which produced the biggest scandal of the year and helped bring Collins down. The substance of the book will continue to be discussed for some time. But overall, these controversies seemed to produce something of a scandal fatigue for many New Zealanders. The media covered the debates in detail but for most, these simply weren’t issues that mattered. Perhaps the overload of scandal, controversy and personality politics spooked voters.

And between elections nit’s more likely to turn people off politics rather than turn into a triumph for the left – who are hardly innocent of playing dirty politics either, as seen by many voters .

Edwards predicts a continuation of scandal-mongering.

Get ready for more scandals
The public’s scandal fatigue won’t prevent politicians from attempting to create more controversies. Headline-hungry parties will continue to escalate the strong aggression we have witnessed this year.

So expect more scandalmongering. Some of this will be useful – we do need politicians and the media to uncover abuse of power and faults of politicians. But in the end, quality not quantity might be what the public wants from such controversies – that is, scandals that matter. The lesson from this year is that some controversies were more important than others, and that it takes a lot for a controversy to eclipse what voters are really interested in: improving our everyday lives.

A scandal in left wing activist circles and left wing blogs does not make it an issue the public care about. Even efforts by mainstream media to scoop the ratings with scandals are frequently futile.

Crying wolf over and over again makes it less likely rather than more likely yet another over-hyped scandal will break out of the bolshie bubble.

The events covered by ‘Dirty Politics’ were three years ago. Little and Labour need to be focussed on the next three years. They need to be the party of promise, not a party pissing in history.

Cameron Slater keeps promising he’ll strike back hard. Time will tell whether he has anything substantive and whether anyone outside his fan club will take any notice but it’s possible the police will take some legal action against the hacker (or hackers) and perhaps others complicit in the use of illegally obtained communications data.

If Little is as astute as he has shown signs of being he will keep as much distance from any of this as possible. The chances of him being tainted are higher than of scoring a political hit, and even if ‘Dirty Politics’ pulls a success out of the hat the public are likely to continue to see all parties as complicit in the mud slinging.

One of the biggest problems is that if a scandal comes to light that has sufficient evidence and seriousness to genuinely warrant holding politicians to account it’s impact will be severely diminished if it is seen as ‘just another round of mud slinging’.

The left wing social media campaign to associate only Key and National with ‘Dirty Politics’ looks like continuing. Most see it as disconnected from reality as associating only the All Blacks with ‘Playing Rugby’.

‘Dirty Politics’ is as relevant to the next three years as ‘Vote Positive’ – there could be some flow on effect but it was largely a failed campaign slogan.

How about ‘act Positive’? The left wing activists may find it difficult to change entrenched habits but Little and Labour would win much more support if they launch into the next three year campaign looking like a positive alternative.

And John Key needs to get over his annoyance and arrogance and concentrate on getting his Government on being  positive about making New Zealand a bit better.

Positive politics will do far more for people and the country in the future than pissing in the dark past.

National down, Labour up in latest Roy Morgan poll

This may be the last political poll of the year, from Roy Morgan:

  • National 46% (down 3.5% in a month)
  • Labour Party 27% (up 3%)
  • Greens 12% (down 2.5%)
  • NZ First 7% (up 0.5%)
  • Maori Party 2% (up 1%)
  • Act NZ 1.5% (up 1%)
  • United Future 0% (unchanged)

Parties outside Parliament:

  • Conservative Party 2.5% (up 0.5%)
  • Internet-Mana Party alliance 1% (up 0.5%
  • Independent/ Others is 1% (down 0.5%).

National won’t be too worried about slipping at this stage of the term. They and key particularly have had a rough few weeks.

Andrew Little and Labour supporters will be encouraged by their rise, but 27% is still not a good number. An early impression next year will be important.

Greens are back down as Labour went up. There’s little of note with the rest.


Colin James: what does National do now?

Colin James on National’s third term outlook and options.

What does National do now?
Unusually for a third-term government, National has strategic policy aims which break new or expand territory.

These are in addition to continuing the policy line of the first two terms – principally fiscal consolidation and associated public service reform (including devolution of some activities to private, not-for-profit and local government agencies) and policies aimed at boosting GDP growth, including infrastructure investment, business-friendly regulatory reform, oil and minerals exploration and trade deals – and potholing issues as they arise or become politically embarrassing, notably “at-risk” children, (un)affordable housing, security threats and foreigners’ purchases of land.

The strategic policy areas are in natural resources – initially freshwater management and waterway pollution, where the government fears coming adrift from public opinion – a shift in education focus to lifting teachers’ professional status and performance, reducing regulatory complexity and making legislation and regulation fit for purpose and widening the application of the “investment approach” to other services.

National will face the usual third-term erosion of public trust and confidence. This will be compounded by slowing GDP growth as the Christchurch rebuild peaks then slows and as commodity prices settle on to a more sustainable path, which will slow or reverse the improvement in household finances and reduce consumer confidence.

The hospital system will at some point need release from the straitjacket Tony Ryall applied to it, at some fiscal cost. The inequality/poverty and (un)affordable housing noises are likely to get louder and start to bother moderate conservatives who like an ordered, cohesive society, not a fractious one.

John Key lost some personal authority as a result of his and his office’s dealings with Cameron Slater and his evasion of responsibility, which he repeated in late November when the Inspector-General of Intelligence Services tabled her report on the Security Intelligence Service’s part in those dealings. That did not affect the election result but may affect his prospects in 2017.

Key has said he will serve the whole 2014-17 term. That accords with his practice of doing the bigger and riskier currency trades in his past occupation. Whether Bill English will be alongside him is unclear: on one hand English is driving the strategic policies and is constantly looking for new ideas; on the other, he went on the list, which could be taken as signalling retirement.

National also will need new support parties. That means starting to cultivate New Zealand First – which, however, may not survive the 2017 election if, as many in the party think, Winston Peters is now in his last term – and maybe setting up an arrangement with the Conservatives, which would require skilful and assiduous nurturing.

There is a deeper issue: whether National in 2017 will be seen as in tune with those now under-45 who will be a majority of voters by 2017, especially if it sticks with market-liberal Friedmanism, even if modified. In its employment and business policies, it has been the most business-friendly – right-leaning – government since the end of the radical reforms of 1984-92.

As Friedmanism is increasingly questioned, challenged and debated through these next three years, National risks coming to sound outdated, despite its acquisition of five under-46 new MPs in the 2014 to add to its existing three.

From Colin James to the Victoria University post-election conference, 3 December 2014 DRAFT – MAYBE SUBJECT TO ADJUSTMENT

Roy Morgan poll – National up

The second Roy Morgan poll since the election shows National recovering support and Labour languishing leaderless (Annette King is doing a reasonable job but just as deputy caretaker leader).

  • National 49.5% ( up 6% since early October)
  • Maori Party 1% (down 1%)
  • Act NZ 0.5% (unchanged)
  • United Future 0% (down 0.5%).
  • Labour Party 24% (up 1.5%)
  • Greens 14.5% (down 3%)
  • NZ First 6.5% (down 0.5%)

Parties outside Parliament:

  • Conservative Party 2% (down 3%)
  • Internet-Mana Party 0.5% (down 0.5%)
  • Independent/ Others 1.5% (up 1%)

Electors were asked: “If a New Zealand Election were held today which party would receive your party vote?” This latest New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll on voting intention was conducted by telephone – both landline and mobile telephone, with a NZ wide cross-section of 866 electors from October 27 – November 9, 2014. Of all electors surveyed 2.5% (up 0.5%) didn’t name a party.

Does National have a mandate to sell state houses?

There is strong opposition to Nationals plans to sell some state houses into community ownership with a shift to more private social housing that would be subsidised by the Government.

In response to an interview with Paula Bennett on what the Government is looking at doing (details are currently vague) Labour’s Annette King said:

“Not once has the Government mentioned a partnership with local government in social housing as Labour had with Wellington City Council which saw hundreds of units refurbished.

“Nor has it said the money from selling these houses will be re-invested in the sector.

“People are living in cars and garages and in caravans in camping grounds. The Government doesn’t have a mandate for this asset sale.

And Green housing spokesperson Kevin Hague:

“This goes to show this is just about asset sales and not about improving the lives of the many New Zealanders who desperately need homes.

“John Key said he wouldn’t be selling our assets earlier this year but has been outed by his own Minister.

“You don’t just decide to sell a billion dollars worth of assets overnight, it’s implausible to think the Government didn’t have asset sales on their mind before the election.

“This is a typical example of an arrogant Government who think they can just slip an asset sale past the public without anyone noticing.

Is National being sneaky here? Do they have a mandate? This is there Policy 2014 – Social Housing:

National social housing 1

They claim to have passed legislation preparing the way for this.

National social housing 2While this doesn’t give specifics – Bennett says they are still working on detail – the general policy has been clearly signalled.

On Hager and “Dirty Politics and dirty politics

This follows the previous post On Slater and dirty politics and “Dirty Politics”

Was the hacking of Cameron Slater’s personal data a reactive attack on Slater by one individual that happened to uncover information that happened to make it’s way into Hager’s possession that was a useful coincidence as it supported an ongoing issue of interest to Hager?

Or was Hager a tool used by a black ops campaign by political operators to discredit Slater and bring down the Key Government?

How much was Nicky Hager a participant and how much was he a pawn?

It’s interesting to see a sequence of events as described by Hager in the preface to his book “Dirty Politics”.

  • Dirty Politics follows my earlier book, The Hollow Men, which told the story of the National Party from 2003 to 2006 under the former leader Don Brash. This sequel describes the years of John Key’s leadership between 2008 and 2014.

The Hollow Men doesn’t tell “the story of the National Party”, it tells a small part of the story based, coincidentally, on leaked or hacked information from Don Brash’s office. Dirty Politics does not describe “the years of John Key’s leadership”, it tries to make a story out of hacked personal communications of a small group of people.

The Hollow Men played a part in ending Don Brash’s leadership. Fran O’Sullivan wrote about the police investigation of the source data for the book.

It now seems abundantly clear Quinn’s pursuit of Hager’s sources was little more than a polite run around the traps. But the police had no qualms about obtaining a search warrant for the Herald on Sunday offices to try to get hold of a tape recording of the exclusive interview celebrity sports journalist Tony Veitch gave to its star columnist shortly after his bashing scandal became public.

Or about trying to force TV3 news host John Campbell into revealing the identity of the exclusive source on the theft of Victoria Cross medals from the army museum.

Harry Quinn resorted to neither measure. Bizarre really – police use the full extent of the law to retrieve information from professional journalists. But a political activist is a no-go zone.

This is frankly unacceptable in a democratic system where authorities like the police should be expected to get to the bottom of what was obviously a politically motivated burglary.

While the way the Brash data became available has not been proven it’s of note that some claims are that it was a politically motivated burglary.

Dirty Politics being a sequel suggests that it wasn’t a one off reporting of hacked data, it was a continuation of an ongoing anti-National campaign.

  • The origins of this book can be traced to a political event in October 2013, when extremely personal details of Auckland mayor Len Brown’s sexual affairs were published on the right wing blog site, Whale Oil.

The timing of those revelations seem to have been to try and overturn the result of the mayoral election.

Ironically Hager wrote “it became clear the exposé had been arranged by his political enemies to try and push him out of office and replace him with their own mayoral candidate”. Hager timed his book this year to try to push John Key out of Government.

  • In January of the following year (2014) I travelled to Dunedin for a conference, where I met a series of people who raised their concern about Cameron Slater, the Whale Oil blogger and son of a former National party president.

Hager was a keynote speaker at Surveillance, Copyright, Privacy: The End of the Open Internet. Conference Jan 30 – Feb 1, 2014 at Otago University.

Across the Internet, immense changes are affecting ordinary users with urgent implications both worldwide and locally. New Zealand has been the test case for changing practices surrounding copyright, surveillance, sovereignty and privacy.

The conference is designed to create an engaged, cross-disciplinary and critical dialogue regarding the intensification of control and policing of internet usage, including both commercial activity and democratic participation in New Zealand.

Amongst other things it coincidentally looked at online privacy.

Another keynote speaker was Vikram Kumar, who had been CEO of Kim Dotcom’s Mega company but just prior to the conference became Chief Executive of Dotcom’s new Internet Party. Dotcom and Slater had had a long running feud.

  • The third experience that led me to investigate Whale Oil and the growth of attack politics was an account I heard at a meeting in a major news organisation. The point of the meeting had been to discuss Slater and whether news resources should be allocated to scrutinising his activities. According to one of the people present, however, senior staff began expressing their fears about attracting attacks from Slater on themselves and their organisation. By the end of the meeting they had decided to do nothing.

That a major news organisation would not investigate someone for a “fears about attracting attacks” seems bizarre, and if true it is somewhat eyebrow raising.

According the above conference bio of Hager is “a regular contributor to the New Zealand newspaper Sunday Star-Times”. Slater has had ongoing battles with media, especially with NZ Herald and senior journalist there David Fisher.

  • Finally, in this same period, Slater hit the news after making yet another personal attack. A young West Coast man named Judd Hall had died when the car in which he was a passenger crashed off the road. Slater copied a newspaper article on his blog and casually headed it with “Feral died in Greymouth, did the world a favour”.
    More than any single thing Slater had written, it provoked a furious public reaction.

The sequence in Hager’s preface implies this followed the latter two of the previous events. He doesn’t date his media meeting.

But Slater’s “feral” attack was on Saturday 25th January, the week before the Otago conference. Hager doesn’t say it but surely it was a part of his discussions there.

Hager then writes:

This time, apparently, as part of the angry backlash to his West Coast comments, hackers targeted him. A ‘denial of service’ attack was launched against his blog site, overloading his server and shutting down his website for three days. It appears that online hackers also gained access to his computer. Thus an insensitive comment about a car accident victim may have led to the long-held secrets being revealed about Slater and his political collaborators: right up to the level of senior government ministers.

It’s possible a nasty attack by Slater provoked a spontaneous denial of service attack to cover a hack of his data (apparently one commonly goes with the other). The attack began about two days after Slater initiated the outrage.

It seemed odd at the time that an obviously angry group of people on the West Coast would launch an unprecedented denial of service and hack attack on a blog site.

After getting Whale Oil back online on January 30 Slater wrote:

What was then unleashed was literally hundreds of death threats and a social media bullying campaign. Ironically their behaviour online proved conclusively that there is a serious problem on the West Coast with a feral underclass.

What I said may have been offensive, but that is not illegal. What is illegal is issuing death threats and threats to rape my daughter. Furthermore a DDoS attack was also set upon my site in an effort to silence me. Whether or not it was connected to feral outrage remains to be seen.

Yes, whether or not it was connected to the outrage remains to be seen.

It seems more credible to assume that it was a cover to launch a previously planned attack and hack by someone or some people.

  • Some weeks later, out of the blue, I received a package: an 8 gigabyte USB digital storage device, the contents of which appeared to have originated from the attack on Slater’s website. On the USB were thousands of documents that revealed different parts of the National Party attack politics, a subject that until then had largely been a matter of speculation and denial.
    This was very different from my usual sources – I have not used this type of source before – but I believe not a single major news organisation in the country would turn down such fascinating and important material. Supplemented by National Party sources, it has allowed stories to be told that the public has a right to know.
    I had no part in obtaining the material and cannot say anything else about it’s origin.

The hacker Rawshark chose to release more hacked information after the book release, first via Twitter (@Whaledump) and then via major news organisations, including the Sunday Star Times and NZ Herald.

I have no reason to doubt Hager’s claim he played no direct part in hacking the data.

But some of Hager’s claims here are contradictory. In the preface ot his book he says “Some weeks later, out of the blue, I received a package: an 8 gigabyte USB digital storage device, the contents of which appeared to have originated from the attack on Slater’s website. “

But David Fisher at NZ Herald quoted Hager in August:

“I heard a rumour about someone who had some stuff,” says Hager, whose books on spies have generated contacts in IT circles. “He already had a plan in his mind to set up a Twitter account and splash it all out there.”

Hager says he spent weeks talking the person into letting him see the material and use it to build the narrative which became Dirty Politics. The hacker, says Hager, gave him everything. “I’ve seen everything. I’m 100 per cent sure.” The hacker then expressed a desire to keep back some material for himself. “We kind of negotiated how much,” he says. “I said ‘can I have all the political stuff’.” Hager got what he asked for and so, the book was written.

That doesn’t sound anything like “out of the blue”.

Hager wrote:

Thus the National Government had the political advantages both of the friendly face and the attack machine. Naturally this would not work if people could see both, so considerable effort went into hiding and denying these activities.

There seems to also be a lot of hiding and denying of things with Hager’s “Dirty Politics”.

But not everyone remains silent. Two days before the launch of Hager’s book left wing activist, blogger and big noter Martyn Bradbury posted:

Here are my 3 guesses on his book.

1 – Right wing spin doctors in Wellington will be crying harder than Matthew Hooton post the Hollow Men.
2 – We won’t hear from the Taxpayer Union for a while.
3 – This won’t be the only time Nicky makes an impact before the election.

When his “guesses” were queried he responded on Twitter:

pfft – Nicky contacted me months ago asking specific questions which helped my guesses – the lesson is read TDB

So Hager was researching amongst left wing activists, as Lyn Prentice has also admitted an involvement.

Perhaps if Hager had interviewed a few people, instead of just writing a book of one-sided allegations ABOUT them, based on STOLEN e mails, and published at a slightly less cynical time than a few weeks before the election, he might not be in this position today?

[lprent: Based on reading the blog posts of the various people that were referred to in the emails passed to him. You really can’t get much more independent that the actual actions of arseholes.

Plus doing a pretty widespread verification among many people who read those blogs and keep an eye on Slater, Odgen, Farrar, Ede, and others of that dirty brigade. Like me and the score of people that I pointed to and introduced to Hagers people.

Why would you ask Slater? He is currently saying that yes he made those statements in those emails, but that he was lying and bullshitting. What makes you think that he wouldn’t lie or bullshit to a journo or for that matter the police or a judge?]

“Like me and the score of people that I pointed to and introduced to Hagers people.”

Prentice has openly feuded with Slater. He is not an unbiased observer – in fact he seems to be claiming to be very involved in Hager’s book. Again here he admits being a party to the investigation:

There was extensive checking done before the publication of the book. I helped with putting people in contact with other people. We’d long known what kinds of things were going on. We had just never had any proof of how much of an arsehole that Cameron Slater and his friends were.

It just wasn’t done with the arsehole perpetrators. That was because they already had a port of redress if the material was wrong. The courts.

Is that what you are offended by. That the arseholes of the local blogs and their puppet masters in National and corporates weren’t warned?

Idiot. If Cameron Slater or Odger or Ede or anyone else wants to challenge the veracity of the emails and the conclusions of the book, then all they have to do is to use the courts. It is called a defamation suit.

You’d have to note that they don’t appear to be using it?

Of course they will then be up for cross examination and discovery motions. I can understand why that isn’t something that they want to face.

Obviously Hager wouldn’t work alone on this. He claims he discussed accessing the data for weeks with “the hacker”. Prentice claims to have played a significant part, along with others – “We’d long known what kinds of things were going on. We had just never had any proof .”

Who is “we”.

How much has Hager driven this? He has had an obvious interest in exposing National tactics for more than a decade.

Was the attack and hack a spontaneous reaction or a planned illegal action?

The identity of Rawshark is of obvious interest, but it’s reasonable to be suspicious of who else was involved.

Many people bore grudges against Slater – not surprising considering his mode of dirty politics – and there were obvious interests in defeating Key and National. There have been many comments online alluding to using any means that would be justified in achieving this.

Hager claimed that “a very high public interest” justified overriding “everyone has the right to keep their communications private”.

The election result suggests that Hager and others may have confused “very high left wing interest in defeating Key” with “very high public interest”.

Political activists often incorrectly presume their strong opinions and aims must be shared by most people so achieving those aims by any means is justified.

After the Left’s election disaster some activists bitterly criticised voters for getting things wrong and for being traitors.

There seems to be much more to this story than one civic minded journalist who chanced upon some evidence that happened to support a long running ant-National campaign.

It will be interesting to see what else is revealed over the next few months. Revelations are promised.

This leads into the next post, the third of three on this. Will “Dirty Politics be uncovered?

Key’s intention “in the interests of every New Zealanders”

An open letter from John Key outlines the Prime Minister’s aims and aspirations in his third term of Government:

Elections are a chance for people to assess what party has the best plan, policies and vision for the future. My assessment is that voters remain focused on the issues that matter to them and their families — the economy, law and order, health, education and the environment.

So although a lot of media attention can focus on peripheral issues, it takes a lot to distract voters from these core issues.

I am very grateful to the million plus voters who gave their party vote to National. Thank you for your support and encouragement — and the endorsement of the past six years.

An election is when people vote for a particular party; however the elected Government should work in the interests of every New Zealander and it is my intention to do so.

There will be times when people will disagree with decisions we make, but that is true of core supporters as well.

Over the past six years we have been transparent and straightforward about our decisions and the direction we have taken.

Although we are likely to have an outright majority in Parliament, that won’t change. We’ll continue to do what we said we would do, and will not embark on any agenda we have not campaigned on. We have been, and will remain, a centre-right Government.

Now we are reaching out to other political parties to form a bigger buffer than the one-seat majority from election night. This will give the Government depth and breadth.

Once we successfully negotiate the Confidence and Supply agreements, I will look at forming a new Cabinet. There are two vacant spots in the existing Cabinet, which gives us room to bring in new talent, and in some cases it makes sense to change portfolios around.

Although the core economic team of Bill English in Finance and Steven Joyce in Economic Development won’t change, there are options for Ministers looking for new challenges.

Once the Government is sworn in, we will be getting to work quickly on our priorities. These include implementing our education reforms to lift professional standards, and our housing programme, which will see young first-homebuyers build a deposit through KiwiSaver HomeStart.

We will also continue to fast track the release of land and building through special housing areas.

We will continue to diversify and build productivity in the economy. That’s about more training places and apprenticeships in high-skill areas.

We’d like to finalise our Free Trade Agreement with Korea and will work hard on an FTA with the United States and other partners who are looking to form the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The country’s infrastructure build will continue at a rapid rate, including the expansion of ultra-fast broadband and the rural broadband initiative. We will work tirelessly on Christchurch’s rebuild, finalise those unsettled Treaty of Waitangi claims, and I want to work on the referendum process for a potential change to the New Zealand flag.

Welfare reform will continue to be a priority, as will health. One of our first targets will be to see hospice funding increased to 70 per cent, and we will also speed up the cancer treatment process so 90 per cent of sufferers receive treatment within 62 days of their first referral.

One of the messages we picked up on the campaign trail was that New Zealanders want us to do more for the most vulnerable children in our society. We will continue to try to move people from welfare-based homes to work-based homes, however we acknowledge there is potentially more we can do and we will be looking at ways to do that.

There is enormous opportunity over the next three years to continue to develop the job market in New Zealand. Over the next two years we expect to see about 150,000 jobs created.

Over the next three years we expect the average wage to move from $55,000 to $62,000 and expect to lift the minimum wage every year we are in office. We want to finalise our tax-cut programme and implement modest cuts for low and middle income New Zealanders from 2017.

This is while we continue to build surpluses, pay off some nominal debt by 2017 and reduce ACC levies.

In the time I have been Prime Minister I have marvelled at the creativity, ingenuity and generosity of New Zealanders. This is a remarkable country and there are enormous opportunities for us all. I am optimistic and ambitious for this country — and you have every reason to be as well.

- Herald on Sunday

Predictable result

In the main the election result and sub-results were quite predictable.

Polls were a reasonable indicator but only look backwards so show trends that have happened. They can’t predict to late campaign shifts that are common.

This election was peculiar in that many decisions were put on hold until Kim Dotcom’s big reveal. When it came to nothing it strengthened resolve of swing voters to ensure National retained it’s hold on Government.

Labour dropping below poll results was not surprising. They were obviously not going to do well and non-committed voters either change their minds or simply don’t bother voting.

Claims like “but Cunliffe ran a good campaign” have been proven wrong. As David Shearer said, the end result was tragic for Labour. Cunliffe may have appeared to be campaigning strongly but he puts on a variety of acts. While they might be slick acts voters see through this lack of genuineness. Cunliffe also has a problem that is probably unresolvable – too many people simply don’t like his persona (or personas).

Greens will be disappointed to have struggled to maintain their level of support while Labour were shedding votes. Greens weren’t able to pick them up. This suggests that 10-12% is the upper limit for them. This also shouldn’t be surprising outside the Green bubble. People like to have a party promoting environmental issues but most don’t like the extreme Green stances like no drilling, no fracking, no motorways.

And Greens misread public sentiment if they think that handing out more money to poor people with no responsibilities applied will be popular. Middle New Zealand see this as imposing costs and taxes on them. Socialism is fringe ideology these days.

Winston Peters is adept at picking up protest and shedded votes. NZ First gained vote, gained MPs but otherwise gained nothing. Most of the 91% who didn’t vote NZ First will be happy with this outcome.

The 5% threshold always looked a very high hurdle for Conservatives and so it proved. This was a failure of MMP. The threshold should be no higher than 3%. I don’t personally support the Conservatives but their missing out is a travesty of democracy.

Hone Harawira losing his electorate was a bit of a shock but not really surprising given the severely compromised position of Harawira and Mana hitching their ambitions to Kim Dotcom. Dotcom’s expensive disaster was Harawira’s failing.

Internet-Mana was always a high risk alliance. They might have succeeded as a combined party but Dotcom realised too late that his brand was toxic and he couldn’t resist being prominent. His final week failure to deliver on his promises to hit John Key compounded the problem.

Laila Harre severely compromised her credibility and was still blind to this yesterday, blaming everything but reality. Her political future is very limited.

The Maori Party lost two of their three electorates as widely predicted. For the first time they had sufficient party vote to pick up a list seat to go with Te Ururoa Flavell’s retained seat. Flavell was a minor star of the campaign but will have a difficult job keeping the Maori Party afloat.

David Seymour retained Epsom as expected but also as expected ACT failed as a party. Jamie Whyte failed to step up as leader in a challenging attempt to rebuild a battered brand.

Peter Dunne held is Ohariu seat. That didn’t seem to surprise anyone but unrealistic Labourites from the electorate. As a party United Future was nowhere to be seen, and accordingly votes were nowhere to be seen, dropping to a third of the low return they got in 2011.

Just two more seats for National but this strengthens them substantially, giving them a majority vote on their own as long as they don’t lose any seats this term. They also have ACT, Dunne and Maori Party support options on standby.

Just two less seats for Labour and this weakens them substantially. The result is tragic for them and the outlook is no better. They have done very little to move on the old guard and bring in new talent. They seem out of touch with their constituency of last century. They have yet another failed leader with no obvious replacement. This was also predictable.

Labour have failed for six years to rebuild from the Clark/Cullen era. Unless someone out of the ordinary steps up their future looks bleak.

National campaigned on ‘steady as she goes’ and the voters delivered the platform for National to be a little more politically steady than expected providing outstanding issues don’t impact too much.

Judith Collins has already been sidelined and is expendable should inquiries further damage her.

Now the election is over ‘dirty politics’ should be addressed by Key. And by Labour. And to a lesser extent by Greens. Peters won’t change from his habit of attack without evidence but he will be largely impotent unless the media keep pandering to his baseless allegations.

Some embarrassments may emerge for Key and National out of surveillance and GCSB issues but they look to have been overplayed, and most people accept the need for some surveillance protection.

The simple fact is that most people don’t feel threatened by surveillance and they are concerned about about terrorism.

And it’s ironic that the supposedly net-savvy who campaign strongly against surveillance must be aware that the Google and Twitter and Facebook social media tools they willingly use are tracking what they do far more than any government.

But we can predict they will continue to fight for a free internet that gives them far more public exposure than they ever had. They claim that privacy is paramount in a very public online world.

Otherwise we can predict have much the same Government as we’ve had over the past six years. Most people will be comfortable with that.

It’s harder to predict if Harawira will make a comeback or if Mana will survive their battering and their harsh reality check.

If Dotcom pulls the plug on Internet Party funding it’s demise can be predicted. If that happens it can also be predicted that Laila Harre will find it very difficult to find another party that would risk being tainted by her lack of loyalty and sense.

It is not hard to predict that Labour’s struggle to be relevant and their lack of connection to anyone but some special interest groups will continue.

John Key has shown he is aware of the dangers to National of complacency and arrogance – it can be predicted that some of his MPs will struggle to heed his warnings. But most likely things will continue much as they have.


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