Standard joins Key/police pre-blaming

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

National – trying to provoke TPP violence?

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

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

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

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

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

This is a form of dirty politics.

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


Treasury to cost election promises?

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

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

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

From Turei’s speech:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More positive coverage:

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

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

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

Also from Davidson: Party policies costing plan could fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour leader Andrew Little…

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

Act Party leader David Seymour…

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

Incoming Business New Zealand head Kirk Hope…

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

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

There is already a means of costing policies:

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

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

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

It needs to be independent of any Government oversight.

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

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

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

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

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

No party taps into the existing fund.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Party prospects

What are party prospects leading up to next year’s election? It’s a long time in politics until we vote again so there’s many things that could affect the overall outcome and the outcome for individual parties.

Has Been and Never Been

The 5% threshold is making it pretty much impossible for a small or new party to get into Parliament on party vote. This is by design by the large parties, successfully keeping small parties shut out.

Mana Party

Mana took a punt on Kim Dotcom’s big money last election and crashed badly, losing their only electorate and failing to attract combined party vote. Hone Harawira seems to have disappeared from public view, and the Mana Party website seems to have also disappeared. Their chances of revival look unlikely, and their chances of success again are also unlikely.

Internet Party

The Internet Party had large funds and little credibility last election. Dotcom acknowledged afterwards that he was politically toxic. Without his money and presence and media pulling power the party continues – their website remains – but is ignored and will find it difficult to get anywhere, which is a shame because they had some interesting ideas on inclusive democracy.

Conservative Party

With heaps of money and media attention last election Colin Craig and his Conservatives could only manage about 4%. After last year’s major upheaval it’s unlikely they will get half that next time. Craig is severely damaged politically and socially and would struggle to lead the Conservatives to 2% next time. There is no obvious alternative leader.

The Strugglers


As a party UnitedFuture has faded just about completely. It is still operating but without a major input of money and new personal I don’t see any change. The only option for UF is for outsiders to see an opportunity to use an existing party to get a foothold in Parliament rather than start from scratch, but even then success would be dependent on Peter Dunne  retaining his Ohariu electorate. I think Dunne must be close to considering retiring, and if he does UF will retire or expire.

ACT Party

ACT have defied critics and survived the Don Brash and John Banks disasters due to the success of one person, David Seymour. I think Seymour is odds on to retain Epsom next year (deservedly) so ACT is likely to survive. National and possibly Conservative vote must be up for grabs, but it will depend on ACT coming up with additional electable candidates to make an increased party vote attractive. Jamie Whyte didn’t work out, but with Seymour anchoring the party they may attract strong candidates who would then stand a good chance of success through an improved party vote.

Maori Party

The Maori Party continue to be quiet achievers. They should be able to retain at Te Ururoa Flavell’s electorate seats and their first list MP Marama Fox has made a quick impact. They stand a chance of picking up ex Mana Maori votes so have some chance of getting more seats via their list. Further electorate prospects will depend on candidate quality. The Maori Party could also be impacted negatively by a Labour resurgence if that ever happens.

The Over Threshold Parties

New Zealand First

It’s difficult to predict NZ First’s future. It is very dependant on Winston Peters. He had a major success early last year by winning the Northland buy election but hasn’t dome much since then. He could just be pacing himself, rebuilding energy and drive for next year’s election campaign. Or he could be running out of puff – that’s been predicted before but so far he has managed to keep coming back.

Installing Ron Mark as deputy could be a problem for NZ First. The rest of the party has been generally out if sight, but Mark is an ambitious attention seeker, and the attention he gets is often uncomplimentary. He could deter voters.

But if Winston remains NZ First should remain after next year’s election. Peters may or may not retain Northland, but the party should be good for 5-10% party vote if he is still in the race.

Green Party

The Green Party have successfully weathered another leadership change. They had built their vote and presence but were disappointed to not gain ground last election despite Labour’s vote shrinking. Greens are assured of retaining a place in Parliament but may find it challenging to increase or even retain their current numbers if Labour recovers and increases their vote. And Greens need Labour to improve substantially to give them a chance of having their first stint in Government.

Greens should be able to stay above 10% but may be cemented as a good sized small party rather than becoming the growing force they have ambitions of being.

Labour Party

Labour have to improve their support significantly or it will either be difficult for them to get back into Government or it will be difficult for them to govern with Greens and NZ First pulling them in different directions, possible apart.

It would be unlikely for Labour to switch leaders yet again, that would be damaging, so they need Andrew Little to step up. That hasn’t happened yet. They are playing a risky strategy of keeping a low profile while they consult constituencies and rebuild policies. They really have to be looking like a possible alternate Government by the middle of this year. They need to somehow get back 5-10% support.

They are banking on Little growing into his leadership role. He can only be a contrast to John Key, but so far he looks more out of his depth rather than swimming competitively on the surface.

Labour are also banking on their ‘Future of Work’ policy development. It’s a good focus for a labour allied party, but a lot will depend on whether it results in something seen to be visionary or if it is perceived as a Union policy disguised by Grant Robertson.

Labour could get anywhere between 25% and 40% next election. It’s hard to tell what direction they will go at this stage.

National Party

National have been very successful since they won in 2008. They have increased their support since then, most parties in power bleed support. This partly to do with John Key’s continued popularity, and increasingly by Bill English’s capable management of finances in sometimes very difficult circumstances (GFC and Christchurch earthquake).

National’s support must fall at some stage but it’s difficult to judge when that might start happening. Left wing activists have been predicting it in vain for seven years. Much will  depend on whether Labour can step up as a viable alternative alongside Greens and probably NZ First.

Next election could see them get anywhere between 40% and 50%. Their political fate is in their own hands to an extent but also reliant on possible alternatives.

Saudi Arabia beheadings and trade

There’s been widespread international condemnation of the beheading of 47 dissidents in Sauda Arabia.

The mass executions were concerning enough, but are only a part of a comparatively large number of executions in Saudi Arabia.

The Guardian reports: Saudi Arabia: beheadings reach highest level in two decades

Saudi Arabia carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, with beheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

Amnesty International said in November that at least 63 people had been executed since the start of the year for drug-related offences. That figure made up at least 40% of the total number of executions in 2015, compared to less than 4% for drug-related executions in 2010.

Amnesty said Saudi Arabia had exceeded its highest level of executions since 1995, when 192 executions were recorded.

While some crimes, such as premeditated murder, carry fixed punishments under Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of the Islamic law, or Shariah, drug-related offences are considered “ta’zir”, meaning neither the crime nor the punishment is defined in Islam.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that of the first 100 prisoners executed in 2015, 56 had been based on judicial discretion and not for crimes for which Islamic law mandates a specific death penalty punishment.

Any executions, and especially mass executions, may seem abhorrent to most of us in New Zealand but we used to have capital punishment, with 83 verified executions and the last execution here in 1957. Executions were abolished finally in 1961.

All New Zealand executions were by hanging, initially in public. Is death by hanging any more or less humane than beheading?

The general response to the Saudi beheadings from the New Zealand Government has been in opposition to the executions but to take it no further.

Newstalk ZB: NZ criticises Saudis, but not at expense of trade talks

Duty minister Chris Finlayson said New Zealand is a long-standing opponent of the death penalty, and executions are always wrong in all cases and any circumstances.

Finlayson insists the government regularly raises human rights issues during diplomatic talks.

The Greens had a much stronger response: New Zealand shouldn’t prefer human rights abusers

The New Zealand Government must halt its free trade discussions with Saudi Arabia after the latest in a long line of very public human rights atrocities.

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said that New Zealand was sending a distressing signal by continuing to negotiate for a free trade agreement giving preferential treatment to Saudi Arabia while they continued to execute people, often with the flimsiest of evidence.

I’m not sure how well Shaw or the Greens check the legal processes and evidence in Saudi cases that result in executions. The main export from Saudi Arabia is oil so Greens probably don’t favour trade with them anyway.

The most interesting response was from Labour…

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson David Shearer did not agree with the Greens on the issue.

“Trading links enables us ot get a foot in the door to talk about human rights issues that we would not otherwise be able to do if we didn’t have those links. I don’t believe it’s necessarily in our interests to take this stance in banning trading talks with either country.”

…and the response to that from The Standard. Greg Presland in Saudi Arabia and the free trade deal:

Davis Shearer’s response has shall we say been disappointing.

Promoting free trade so that our ability to discuss human rights violations with trading partners is frankly silly. And there should be a moral dimension to trade relationships. If a foreign nation is involved in widespread human rights violations then all forms of pressure, including the suspension of trade agreement negotiations, should be available to try and effect change.

All forms of pressure are available to New Zealand, no matter how futile or practical. If we suspended trade negotiations with every country the was deemed by us to have violated human rights we might not have a lot of trade.

Comments were more damning of Shearer’s and Labour’s stance.

Frances Cohen:

It’s absurd for Shearer to think that we can influence Saudi Arabia through free trade deals.


I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard David Shearer on the radio this morning. Really and truly – what a wet response! Has NZ Labour lost all its principles?
This is not a matter of whether or not there is a trade deal to be signed (and if it is it will be a very bad one). This is a matter of taking a stand on human rights.
Both NZ First, and the Greens get it. Why oh why can’t Labour?

Robert Glennie:

Labour is too scared to take back its principles in case it loses a part of the political spectrum that they do not realize is not actually theirs.


Crucifixion no barrier to trade in NZ!

Human rights breaches and democracy breaches and funding ISIS from Saudi, no barrier to trade either!
(or any other neoliberal country, if the US says friend then turn a blind eye, if US says foe, invade or sanction). What happened to an independent foreign policy??


So that idiot Shearer thinks we can influence Saudi Arabia’s human rights through trade deals. So how has that been working out so far? If anything Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been getting worse.

Gordon Campbell has a good post on this.


David Shearer proves once again the labour party is the party of liberalism. So how is raising human rights issues going there David, any luck? Or just more b.s word games from you and your flock of professional politician’s.


This is precisely why Labour is bleeding to death – no principles, no standing for what is right. For once I have to say I agree with a John Key statement: “Get some balls!” Shearer had the opportunity to show that Labour does actually offer something different from National, but I guess he just wants to be part of the big boys’ club.

And it goes on.

Perhaps Shearer knows more about the realities of international relations and trade than vocal left wingers at The Standard.

Should human rights figure more in our trade agreements with other countries? More on this in Greens, capital punishment and trade.

Police, Hager, free press, slatered

Today’s Herald editorial comments on the court ruling that the search of Nicky Hager’s home was illegal in Police must honour right of free press.

When the High Court threw out the search warrant used by police to seize the work of journalist Nicky Hager, it was less a judgment in favour of the media than a judgment against the police. The law is clear. When it comes to search warrants, there is a line which protects all in society, and in some cases particularly the press. Police must behave in unlawful ways to cross that line.

As the judgment explains, a warrant is gained without notice so as not to thwart the benefit of a surprise search and in doing so strips from the subject of the search the opportunity to make their own opposing case to the court.

For police, it meant those seeking the warrant from the district court judge were obliged to make Hager’s case for him. They were supposed to tell the judge the warrant involved a journalist, for there are court-defined guidelines for searching media. Detectives were obliged to acknowledge that the Evidence Act provides a journalistic privilege, which is further recognised in the Search and Surveillance Act.

The judge was told none of this. Instead, police identified Hager as a “political author”.

I think it’s fair enough for the police to suggest that Hager acted more as a political author than a journalist in writing Dirty Politics. But I think this is arguable. I have no idea how a court would rule on author versus journalist, and the police shouldn’t presume one over the other.

In the High Court, the police argued they did not need to tell the district court judge Hager was a journalist, or that journalists had rights. It was legal sophistry which terminally undermined the police case. As Justice Denis Clifford remarked, there was a duty of candour on police to be frank, honest and open with the district court judge about what it was doing, who it was doing it to and why it was necessary.

The police must have been aware that journalist rights would be claimed and would be a factor so should have advised the judge of this.

A free press enhances our democracy by emboldening voices which strain to be heard, by trafficking in information which needs to find its way out. A free press strives to shake our foundations to ensure they are built on rock, not sand.

A responsible free press should also be careful about dealing with illegally obtained information, and how they might reveal it.

I’ve been told recently that Hager’s claim that the timing of the launch of Dirty Politics was simply due to the time required to put the book together. That may well be correct.

But coinciding it with a general election campaign at least allowed a perception that it was timed to swing the election. In fact it was probably too late for that. It created a sideshow from the campaign that may have worked in favour of the target, National, because it looked like it could have been an election hit job.

It looks most likely to me that the hack of Cameron Slater’s data was in retaliation for his attack on ‘ferals’ on the West Coast, and Hager ended up obtain the data because he had an interest in investigating how Jason Eade worked with Slater in doing politics dirtily.

Slater keeps claiming otherwise, saying that it was a targeted political hit job engineered by political activists with MP and party involvement.

He has produced no evidence of this. He is a confessed embellisher, and has a reputation for making things up, and imagining or inventing conspiracies.

As a result of the hacking and the book Eade is political history, and while Slater continues to try to be a player most of his sources and supporters and users have dumped him and deserted him.

I still have concerns about the hacking but this outcome is good for New Zealand politics. It was also a wake up call for National and may turn out to have done them some favours – it probably helped them in last year’s election and has removed a toxic Slater from influence.

With the number of people Slater had annoyed and abused it was inevitable that he would be dealt to sooner or later.

He wouldn’t have seen any risk in using his bully boy blog to abuse a few people on the West Coast. That it seems that it was simply some bullshit bravado that caused his own undoing is apt.

Like any bully Slater likes giving but he can’t take receiving. He has been whinging and whining ever since a few ferals fought back – and yes, him calling others feral is very ironic.

Slater is now in an apparently precarious financial situation and his legal problems don’t seem any better. Support has all but deserted him.

While Hager may not have got the political results he wanted last year, and he wouldn’t have liked the police attention, support has rallied around behind him. He has received substantial legal and financial assistance, and that has resulted in the recent court decision in his favour.

The police stuffed up and have been held to account by the High Court. They may keep trying, or they may decide to leave Hager and the hacking at that.

I think there’s little chance of an escalation in political hacking. It’s a risk too great for any parties with any sense.

While I don’t support the hacking in the main I think the end result (if the current situation is the end result) is reasonably fair.

Freedom of the press has survived.

National survived, albeit with a very strong warning about their degree of delving into dirty tactics.

Hager has probably come out of this strengthened, despite the police hassles. Like him or not a healthy democracy needs people who are prepared to challenge crap.

And the dirtiest of political puppets is now a sidelined muppet. Slatered.

Will Key stand again in 2017?

Audrey Young muses ahead about 2016, including on whether John key will decide whether to continue as National’s leader to contest the 2017 election or not.

Except for a calamity in 2017 if Key is going to stand down he needs to do it next year to give his replacement time to settle in and be up to speed by the time of the election.

Next year will be the year John Key has to decide if he wants to run for a fourth term in 2017. The good money is that he will.

The only reason not to do so would be boredom by him, a dive in popularity, scandal, ill-health, the economy going to hell, or a fear of failure.

None of those apply yet. There is nothing to suggest failure is a certainty. And the prospect of success has always been a stronger motivating force for John Key than fear of failure.

The New Zealand public is more conservative than Labour in Opposition has calculated, and Key will pin his hopes on Labour continuing to miscalculate that.

For all his idiotic appearances and antics with Auckland radio shock-jocks and, probably because of them, his Teflon has barely started to peel.

It’s unknown whether Key’s antics will trigger a tipping point of support loss or whether many voters forgive his idiocy because the Government seems to be managing ok.

Voters prefer stability generally.

Key continues to be helped by the lack of an opposition leader that comes close to matching his ability or appeal.

Andrew Little has managed to do something unexpected, present what at least appears to be a relatively united Labour caucus. But Little has not yet found a way of attracting the swing voters.

Key is also helped by the right/left combo mismatches.

Key/English with some minor party support versus Little/Turei/Shaw/Peters with no guarantee Peters would side with Labour/Greens.

Key needs to continue with more of the same plus trying to avoid too many or too major embarrassments.

Little needs to appear as something quite different. As does Labour.

Unless Labour can appear as mostly positive and capable of stepping up into government Key’s decision to have another crack in 2017 may be very tempting.

Garner on next National leader

Duncan Garner ponders on who may be National’s next leader. He rules out Judith Collins, saying her party has lost faith and trust in her (she could earn that back but it will take time, effort and care).


She’s emerged from the Collins rubble to be the frontrunner. She’s handled everything Labour has thrown at her and sent it back with interest.


The Health Minister is ambitious and is starting to get a bigger profile – and he likes the idea that he’s being spoken about as a potential leader. He will need to show more charisma and reach out more.


Depending on who you speak to in the National Party she’s either a leader in waiting or someone you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.


He has long been discussed as a future National leader and that will probably mean it will never happen. On TV and radio he sucks the life out of the universe but he’s still very capable and knows his subject.


I got to know Muller when he was a Boy Friday in  Jim Bolger’s office in 1996. A thoroughly smart and likeable bloke, Muller bleeds blue and has been earmarked for higher office from an early age. He has genuine private sector experience and has wisely kept his head down  in his first term as an MP.

That’s about how many ex-leaders Labour has.

More details: Duncan Garner: Forget Crusher, Paula Bennett is National’s next leader



Collins back in Cabinet

As expected Tim Groser is going to Washington as ambassador, leaving space in National’s Cabinet for a minor reshuffle.

Apart from a few swaps in portfolios the big talking point is the return of Judith Collins to ministerial responsibilities.

National’s reshuffle: Judith Collins returns, Tim Groser to leave before Christmas

• Trade Minister Tim Groser will leave Parliament before Christmas to become New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington.
• Paula Bennett picks up the Climate Change Issues portfolio from Mr Groser.
• Todd McClay becomes Minister of Trade. He retains his responsibilities for State Owned Enterprises, while handing over the Revenue portfolio to Michael Woodhouse.
• Having picked up the Revenue portfolio, Michael Woodhouse hands Police to Judith Collins. 
• Sam Lotu-Iiga picks up the Local Government portfolio from Paula Bennett, while handing Corrections to Ms Collins.

So Collins becomes Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections.

Corrections in particular was a real problem for National, and John Key obviously thinks Collins is up to sorting it out.

There were problems surrounding Collins last year that were a distraction leading into the election, but she was not found to have done any significant wrong.

So it’s reasonable to see her as the most capable and qualified next cab off the rank for a Cabinet position.

Grant Robertson has already brought uop some of last year’s distractions but if Labour go back to that it will look very petty.

Colins now has a chance to redeem herself. And deserves to be given a fair go to do that.

One thing she will no doubt be wary of is anything that could be seen to be any semblance of a leak from her ministries that gets published on Whale Oil. She can keep things to herself but she can’t stop what Cameron Slater says.

Her political future is largely in her hands, as long as she isn’t compromised by Slater. So if he wants Collins to succeed he will need to play his part by not being seen to compromise her position.

Trans Tasman: best and worst of National

Stuff reports on Trans Tasman’s annual assessment of political performances in Trans-Tasman roll call – the best and worst of the 2015 political year.

Here are National MP ratings.

National is starting to suffer third termitis, and some of its minister’s are burnt out. That’s the view of transTasman, which has just released its annual roll call, the publication MPs look forward to with equal parts excitement and dread.

National is showing signs of third-termitis and senior ministers like Gerry Brownlee and Murray McCully are looking tired, out of sorts, or burnt out.

“Some are looking to the future – [Speaker] David Carter looks as though he will be pleased to relinquish the Speaker’s chair for a Knighthood and a cushy foreign posting, where he will no longer have to be selectively deaf, while Tim Groser will also be looking forward to an ambassadorial posting”.

Top Five – National

Finance Minister Bill English –  8/10

“A foundation for the Government’s ongoing success. Dependable and canny as always, finally getting the books back into the black, even if only for a short time, has been a big deal for him. The power behind the throne.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully 8/10

“He has been a virtual blur this year, rushing through so many countries and doing so much. Failed to secure Middle East peace though. A strong year for the man, which has ended in a hospital bed. He made a massive effort.”

Prime Minister John Key – 7.5/10

Takes a tumble from last year’s rating of 9.5. His popularity is undented, despite ponytail gate and other controversies…..The flag debate may deflate his ego but he is still far and away New Zealand’s most popular leader.”

Justice Minister Amy Adams – 7.5/10

“We said she would be one to watch and she has added to that impression with strong performances across all her portfolios.”

Trade Minister Tim Groser – 7.5/10

“Another minister who has had a huge year and weathered some storms. He is expected to leave soon for a less pressured environment.”

Bottom five – National

List MP Paul Foster-Bell – 2/10

“Last year we suggested he sharpen up his act. He hasn’t.”

Taranaki MP Barbara Kuriger – 2/10

Says she wants ot help promote regional growth. Her own area is doing well but it’s clear she hasn’t had much impact anywhere else.”

List MP Melissa Lee- 2/10
“Probably should be considering another career. Her bus has well and truly pulled out.”

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith – 2/10

Replaced an MP who was a waste of space, but proving he’s better is tough as well, says transTasman.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, Rodney MP Mark Mitchell, List MP Brett Hudson and List MP Nuk Korako – all on 2.5/10

On Simpson, transTasman says: “Can’t seem to get anyone’s attention outside the committee he chairs”. On Mitchell, they say:  “Another holder of a safe seat. A good example of why we should consider fixed terms for MPs.” Hudson: “We said he would have to prove he is anything more than a lightweight. So far still punching at his expected level.” Korako: A man considered genial by most, who has done nothing to change anyone’s opinion.

I think Bill England has been National’s most consistent and probably most valuable performer.

I don’t know about Murray McCully, he is out of sight most of the time, apart from the Saudi Farm debacle which should have marked him down substantially. He was lucky to survive in his job.

It will be hard for new National back benchers to make an impression amongst such a large caucus.

Trans-Tasman 2015 MP roll call

Hooton lobbying or stirring over National leadership?

When a lobbyist floats leadership change of the governing party I’m naturally sceptical.

Bryce Edwards has tweeted about a paywalled column in NBR where by Matthew Hooton either promotes a National leadership change or is trying to stir one up.

Hooton has been floating ideas about Key needing to go or is due to be replaced for quite a while.

Matthew Hooton: “Joyce associates openly talking about leadership change” (paywalled) –  Rumours of Joyce becoming PM

Hooton says Nats caucus too docile to challenge if Key hands power over to Joyce: “MPs are not encouraged to ask questions or even speak.”

Hooton says National caucus now docile: “Caucus meetings are shorter than ever and are dominated by briefings by Messrs Key and Joyce”

Hooton: John Key’s “knighthood depends on him handing over to a National prime minister rather than losing an election to Labour”

It would be sad if Key’s leadership decision is based on the best way for him to get a knighhood.

I don’t think a knighthood would suit him. Would he still goof around?

If Key & Joyce waited til “Paula Bennett was out of the country, they would have a good chance of presenting a handover as a fait accompli”

Joyce “is sure he could do the retail aspects of the prime ministership – clowning around on commercial radio and so forth – as well as Key”

I don’t see Joyce in that role at all.

Hooton: Murray McCully “may seek the chairmanship of World Rugby, formerly the International Rugby Board, when it comes up in May”

I don’t know about the Chairmanship of World Rugby but it’s time for McCully to move on from politics.

And Joyce responded:

@bryce_edwards All complete rubbish from a commentator who has proven once again he is as close to the National Party as Catherine Delahunty


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