Standard gossip with strong Labour Party links

Greg Presland (mickysavage) has made a very tenuous claim in What is it with Herald Gossip Columnists?

Another Herald Gossip columnist with strong National Party links, Pebbles Hooper, created a stir yesterday on Twitter by suggesting that the tragic death of an Ashburton mum and her three children was “natural selection”.

That was an awful tweet by Hooper and it deserves condemnation.

But unless Presland has far more solid evidence of “strong National Party links” than he has presented then this is dirty politics from him.

And Danyl Mclauchlan too, who’s tweet features on Presland’s post:

Sacking journalists and replacing them with dregs of Auckland National Party clique working as well as you’d think http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/celebrities/69968352/pebbles-hooper-ashburton-deaths-were-natural-selection 

Mclauchlan has strong Green party links, having helped James Shaw in his selection as party co-leader.

In comments Presland was asked: What are the strong National party links?

He points to a link provided by Paul:

Here is some background.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=11275169

That points to Twelve Questions: Pebbles Hooper, only one of which makes any reference to National:

6. Are you an Act Party voter?

Practically. I’ve already voted National now and I can’t be a politically out there person on Facebook because I would be killed.

That looks like a very weak link. Linking Hooper’s comment with “strong National Party links” requires far stronger evidence than this, otherwise it is just dirty politics from a Standard gossip with strong Labour Party links.

(And there’s plenty of evidence of Presland’s Labour Party links).

And Presland has added this comment:

mickysavage

I thought about whether or not doing this post. It is just another case of a right winger with strange world views not having the decency to keep them to herself.

But you know what? There is whanau and extended whanau grieving right now. They deserve us expressing outrage.

Using a tragedy like this to launch a dirty political attack also deserves an expression of outrage Greg.

Aided and abetted by a cabal of the usual National suspects

In Colin Craig’s political reputation may be in disarray, but he’s party’s best bet Vernon Small writes:

Bear in mind too the forces arrayed against him. It is not Labour or the Greens who are dismantling his party and his reputation, but an inside job aided and abetted by a cabal of the usual National suspects – whether sanctioned or not.

I doubt whether any official side of the party would be mad to go anywhere near sanctioning this but there are a number of indicators that ‘a cabal of the usual National suspects’ could be doing their best to do a dirty on Craig and the Conservatives.

It may be just one ambitious faction in the party but it tarnishes National as a whole if there’s a perception that it’s back to dirty politics as usual.

Can ‘poverty’ be a habit?

Poverty is currently one of new Zealand’s big issues.

National’s approach has been to make financial and business conditions conducive to economic and employment growth, to incentivise and assist unemployed people to get jobs, and to target the worse off with additional assistance.

Labour’s approach is to criticise National’s approach.

Green’s approach is to give the poor much more money and to guarantee them comfortable living conditions, seeing this as a right regardless of any individual’s capability or willingness to work.

The hard right want the Government gutted and for everyone to manage on their own – swim or sink.

The hard left (including some Greens) accuse the Government of deliberately making the poor poorer so the rich can get richer – I’ve never seen anyone explain how that would work.

Some people are not competent to manage their lives or their finances so a decent society should support them.

There are certainly hard luck stories that result in people being poor.

But why, generally, do people who have had money and go broke manage to climb back up the money ladder? While others seem to start poor and remain perpetually poor? Can poverty be a habit?

I saw a link to an article by Thomas Worley on Facebook. He is described:

About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley understands the difference between being rich and poor: at age nine, his family went from being multi-millionaires to broke in just one night.

For five years, Tom observed and documented the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 people living in poverty. He discovered there is an immense difference between the habits of the wealthy and the poor. During his research he identified over 200 daily activities that separated the “haves” from the “have nots.” The culmination of his research can be found in his #1 bestselling book, Rich Habits – The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.

The article: Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

When I travel the country speaking to high school and college students about exactly what they need to do to become financially successful in life I always begin my presentation by asking three questions:

“How many want to be financially successful in life?”

“How many think they will be financially successful in life?”

Almost every time I ask the first two questions every hand rises in the air. Then I ask the magic third question:

“How many have taken a course in school on how to be financially successful in life?”

Not one hand rises in the air, ever. Clearly every student wants to be successful and thinks they will be successful but none have been taught by their parents or their school system how to be financially successful in life. Not only are there no courses on basic financial success principles but there are no structured courses teaching basic financial literacy. We are raising our children to be financially illiterate and to fail in life. Is it any wonder that most Americans live paycheck to paycheck? That most Americans accumulate more debt than assets?  That many Americans lose their homes when they lose their job? Is it any wonder that most Americans cannot afford college for their children and that student loan debt is now the largest type of consumer debt?

That sounds very similar to New Zealand. I was never taught any financial principles at home or at school. I left home and got my first full time job when I was sixteen and started to teach myself – and I learned to manage fortnight to fortnight with my pay (beginning at $66 a fortnight) from there with no plan for the future. I’ve learned and taught myself a few more things since then.

I’ve experienced how easy it is to get in a financial rut. And I’ve managed to do ok at times to. I certainly don’t regard myself as rich but I think I have a pretty good life overall.

I’ve never planned or aspired to making myself rich. Doing ok has been ok enough.

What about the hundreds of thousands of people deemed to being in poverty? Are they stuck there?

By today’s measures I grew up in poverty. It was tough times for my parents trying to manage on an orchard that was sold to them as frost free but was devastated by frosts at times, at one stage in two out of three years. At times both my parents worked elsewhere to survive. But the both ended up financially quite comfortable, able to live their later years as they liked.

But some people seem to start in poverty and remain stuck in poverty. Corley writes:

The fact is the poor are poor because they have too many Poverty Habits and too few Rich Habits. Poor parents teach their children the Poverty Habits and wealthy parents teach their children the Rich Habits. We don’t have a wealth gap in this country we have a parent gap. We don’t have income inequality, we have parent inequality.

My parents didn’t teach me to get rich, but at least they taught me to work hard and to battle away until I wasn’t poor.

Corley lists fifteen statistics that separate the rich from the poor.

  1. 72% of the wealthy know their credit score vs. 5% of the poor
  2. 6% of the wealthy play the lottery vs. 77% of the poor
  3. 80% of the wealthy are focused on at least one goal vs. 12% of the poor
  4. 62% of the wealthy floss their teeth every day vs. 16% of the poor
  5. 21% of the wealthy are overweight by 30 pounds or more vs. 66% of the poor
  6. 63% of the wealthy spend less than 1 hour per day on recreational Internet use vs. 26% of the poor
  7. 83% of the wealthy attend/attended back to school night for their kids vs. 13% of the poor
  8. 29% of the wealthy had one or more children who made the honor roll vs. 4% of the poor
  9. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during their commute vs. 5% of the poor
  10. 67% of the wealthy watch 1 hour or less of T.V. per day vs 23% of the poor
  11. 9% of the wealthy watch reality T.V. shows vs. 78% of the poor
  12. 73% of the wealthy were taught the 80/20 rule vs. 5% of the poor (live off 80% save 20%)
  13. 79% of the wealthy network 5 hours or more per month vs. 16% of the poor
  14. 8% of the wealthy believe wealth comes from random good luck vs. 79% of the poor
  15. 79% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial condition vs. 18% of the poor

Corley suggests:

Parents and our schools need to work together to instill good daily success habits as follows:

  • Limit T.V., social media and cell phone use to no more than one hour a day.
  • Require that children to read one to two educational books a month.
  • Require children to aerobically exercise 20 – 30 minutes a day.
  • Limit junk food to no more than 300 calories a day.
  • Require that children set monthly, annual and 5-year goals.
  • Require working age children to work or volunteer at least ten hours a week.
  • Require that children save at least 25% of their earnings or gifts they receive.
  • Teach children the importance of relationship building by requiring them to call friends, family, teachers, coaches etc. on their birthdays and to send thank you cards for gifts or help they received from anyone.
  • Reassure children that mistakes are good not bad. Children need to understand that the very foundation of success in life is built on learning from our mistakes.
  • Punish children when they lose their tempers so they understand the importance of controlling this very costly emotion.
  • Teach children that seeking financial success in life is good and is a worthwhile goal. Children need to learn what the American Dream is and that it is something to be pursued in life.
  • Children need to learn how to manage money. Open up a checking account or savings account for children and force them to use their savings to buy the things they want. They need to learn that they are not entitled to things like cell phones, computers, fashionable clothes, flat screen T.V.s etc.
  • Require children to participate in at least two non-sports-related extracurricular activities at school or outside of school.
  • Parents and children need to set aside at least an hour a day to talk to one another. Not on Facebook, or on the cell phone, but face to face. The only quality time is quantity time
  • Teach children how to manage their time. They should be required to create daily “to do” lists and these lists need to be monitored by parents. The goal should be to accomplish at least 70% of their tasks on their daily “to do” list.

And he concludes:

Wealthy people do certain things every single day that sets them apart from everyone else in life. Wealthy people have good daily success habits that they learned from their parents. These daily habits are the real reason for the wealth gap in our country and the real reason why the rich get richer. Unless we teach our children good daily success habits, and level the playing field, the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer.

Food for thought. Especially for our politicians.

I’m sure that to an extent poverty can be a habit.

Should out Governments feed that habit or try and break that habit?

Is McCully past his use-by date?

The Saudi sheep debacle keeps getting worse for National. A Murray McCully special deal looks suspect and the Middle east farm showcase plan seems to have also been executed abysmally.

McCully must surely start considering his post parliament options, once he’s sorted this mess out perhaps.

Steven Joyce and Nick Smith have looked less than shining stars over the last wee while as well.

Are National flying to bits?

Or will a bit of a shake-out be good for them?

Nick Smith reality checks James Shaw

New Green co-leader James Shaw says that he doesn’t favour any type of coalition agreement with National. But he is promoting a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ approach where they get National to fund some of their pet projects.

Nelson MP Nick Smith reality checked this cake and eat it approach in an NBR interview – Shaw’s MoU push: Smith not returning the love.

New Green co-leader James Shaw is pushing the idea of a new memorandum of understanding with National.

Mr Shaw says he wants to find a new “common cause” with National.

On NBR Radio, yesterday, he said he saw three areas that could be covered by a new MoU: climate change, re-engaging on insulation, and moving cycleways from a tourism venture to full-blooded urban transport initiative.

So they want National to implement Green policies.

I put Mr Shaw’s comments to Environment Minister Nick Smith this morning…

I thought Dr Smith would be pretty open to Mr Shaw’s overtures. After all, the environment minister is a bit of a blue-green, and it would address what Matthew Hooton calls the “Remuera doctors’ wives” factor* (that is, urban liberals who stray from blue to green).

Not so. The doc was downright frosty.

Smith said that memorandums of understanding were ‘above his pay grade’, done at Prime Minister level. But he understands the reality of politics, and shared that understanding with the Greens.

“The difficulty is that the Greens need to bring something to the table,” he said.

“What they have tended to do is that they’ve wanted to have memorandums of understanding where we spend money on pet projects which they claim credit for but they are not prepared to do any part of the hard yards that inevitably the government needs to do to make sure you get economic growth and are able to balance the budget.”

“The other part that’s difficult is that, unlike the Maori Party, ACT and United Future, is that they have not committed themselves to a position of being prepared to form a government with National at any time in the future.”

Shaw wants Greens to get the benefit of and accolades for their projects being funded, but he doesn’t want Greens to take on any of the responsibilities of being in Government.

He doesn’t support Greens even considering any responsibilities of governing while National are in power.

He doesn’t want Greens to be tainted by the National cake but wants to pick bits of the icing off and claim credit.

Shaw is ambitious, good on him. He did well building a case within his party for installing him as a leader. Good on him.

But doing politics within the Green bubble is a lot different to doing politics in the big wide real world of governing. Smith has given Shaw a reality check.

What is Shaw prepared to offer National in return for some policy successes?

Key cops out on addressing euthanasia

While John Key says he supports Parliament looking at the euthanasia issue he is not prepared to do anything about it, instead leaving it to the slight chance a bill will be drawn from the Member’s ballot.

From Act plans assisted dying bill:

The hopes of euthanasia supporters appear to rely on Act leader David Seymour and the luck of the draw after both Prime Minister John Key and Labour chief Andrew Little ruled out putting up a bill on the issue.

Mr Key said yesterday that he felt sympathy for Lecretia Seales’ case on assisted dying for the terminally ill but others in National were strongly opposed to it and the Government would not sponsor a euthanasia bill.

Mr Key said he agreed with Justice David Collins’ ruling in Lecretia Seales’ court case that it was up to Parliament to change the law on the issue. However, that should be a conscience vote for MPs and dealt with in a member’s bill.

It should be a conscience issue but it doesn’t have to be done through a Member’s bill.

The PM said National was open to a select committee inquiry that could result from a petition on the matter and allow public debate.

The decision to rule out a Government bill means an individual MP will have to put in a private member’s bill and rely on luck to get it into the House, because measures are selected by ballot.

Although it could go straight into Parliament if there was unanimous agreement from MPs, Mr Key doubted that would be achieved.

Polls show there is strong public support for addressing euthanasia.

Key is copping out.

It looks like he is avoiding annoying some of his caucus rather than deal with something for which there is widespread support.

Very disappointing.

National supporter and pollster David Farrar posted Collins and Goff on euthanasia at Kiwiblog and said:

What we need is a bill to be introduced. I believe it would have overwhelming public support, and so long as there were strong safeguards, would get a significant majority in Parliament to pass it.

He also posted Parliament will debate euthanasia on Saturday:

Good to see that a bill will be put forward. The challenge will be to get it drawn from the ballot, or adopted by the Government (less likely).

I believe any bill, if drafted carefully with safeguards, will pass Parliament with a substantial majority.

Public opinion is massively in favour of a law change. The last public poll saw 74% in favour and just 20% opposed.

A select committee inquiry in response to the petition is a useful thing to do, but not as a substitute to a bill. It can get the arguments on the table, but it can’t lead to a law change, a vote in the House or even a debate in the House. As it is uncertain when a bill might be drawn out of the ballot, it is a good thing to do to keep attention on the issue, and hear arguments on what safeguards there should be. But a bill should go into the ballot as soon as possible, to maximise the chance of it being considered this term.

It’s disappointing that while both John Key and Andrew Little say they support addressing euthanasia neither of them will do anything about it, despite a large majority of public support.

Good on David Seymour and Act, but democracy is poorly served if it’s left to a one MP party to put a bill forward on this.

NZ Herald:

Mr Key said that while he doubted National would block one of its MPs putting up a bill, none had approached him wanting to do so. He said he was likely to support a bill if it struck the right protections.

“Striking the right legislative balance with clear definitions and adequately strong protections is an extremely difficult task and the fact no bill has yet passed is testament to that.

“However, Lecretia has certainly succeeded in sparking a debate on the issue.”

Key is talking the talk but Lecretia has failed to prompt him to walk the walk.

Seymour Super pressure on Key

David Seymour continues to pressure John Key on the future of Superannuation in New Zealand, this time via Question Time in Parliament yesterday.

This is one way of differentiating ACT from National, on an issue that is of concern to many, the affordability of an escalating Super cost.

Seymour: “Does the Prime Minister plan to still be in office in the 2020s when the cost of superannuation to New Zealand taxpayers rises by $1.5 billion every year?”

Key has promised to resign rather than change New Zealand’s superannuation.

This continues a campaign from Seymour. In February in NBR ACT wants referendum on Super:

ACT Leader David Seymour is challenging other parties to support a binding referendum to determine the future of New Zealand’s superannuation system.

“This is smart politics, maybe a bit too smart,” says NBR political editor Rob Hosking.

“It makes John Key’s policy of not lifting the age above 65 — when every other country with a state pension is doing just that — look like the gutless dodge it is,” Hosking says.

“But it also gives Key an out, if a referendum votes on raising the age. If that happens, it will be good for the country.”

Seymour:

“If the public can vote on the New Zealand flag, a matter that is largely symbolic, why not follow the same process for another intractable problem, one that politicians have been dodging for decades,” Mr Seymour says.

“It is vital that we ensure NZ Superannuation is viable over the longer term, avoiding undue fiscal stress and pressure on tax rates, and achieving fairness across generations.”

Three weeks ago (at Stuff):

ACT is trying to get the other political parties to agree to a referendum on the future of NZ Super, which the party says is unsustainable in the face of an ageing population .

ANZ’s retirement calculator suggests that to live decently in retirement, a person would need to save about $622,000 in the absence of NZ Super.

An ACT/Seymour press release on budget day two weeks ago:

National’s Budget ignores elephant in the room

The Budget’s focus is too short-term and ignores intergenerational issues, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“National is denying the demographic realities behind rising Superannuation costs,” said Mr Seymour.

“New Zealanders are living longer than ever, a trend which won’t go away any time soon. As life expectancy rises by about a year each decade it would be fair to raise the age of eligibility for Super by about the same.

“Otherwise, today’s young people will be forced to fund NZ Super through higher and higher taxes, with no guarantee of receiving the same benefits when needed.

“The longer we wait the more drastic will be the inevitable adjustment. We must recognise the need for more intergenerational fairness.”

And yesterday Seymour questioned Key about the affordability of Super in Question Time in Parliament.

Prime Minister—Statements on Superannuation

7. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement in the House last week that because New Zealand Superannuation costs are currently less than 5 percent of GDP, and are forecast to rise to 8 percent of GDP by 2060, this represents a responsible path for overall Government spending?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by my statement, which was “We have set out a responsible path for overall Government spending so that current settings for New Zealand superannuation are both affordable and fully factored into our long-term forecast.” That is true, as the Budget shows. Other parties in this House from time to time want to cut back on superannuation entitlements, while other people want to spend the money on something else. That is a fiscal choice they should put clearly to the electorate, including Andrew Little and his idea of means testing.

David Seymour : Does it not strike the Prime Minister as odd that he is commending OECD fiscal arrangements, given that countries like France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain are all facing a brutal fiscal adjustment that means pushing up the age of eligibility for pensions, increasing pension contribution rates, and shifting indexation from a wage to an inflation basis? Is that the future we are offering younger New Zealanders?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I think it is about correctly reflecting, actually, on the current position, which is that New Zealand superannuation currently costs 4.8 percent of GDP and is expected to rise to 8 percent of GDP by 2050. At the moment, the OECD average today is 9.5 percent and is expected to rise to 11 .7 percent. So, yes, although the costs of New Zealand superannuation will rise, I think it is affordable and within our projected forecast.

David Seymour : Does the Prime Minister plan to still be in office in the 2020s when the cost of superannuation to New Zealand taxpayers rises by $1.5 billion every year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I certainly hope so, but of course there will be many elections to run on, and I look forward to working with the member for as long as he is the member for Epsom, which is where I live.

Expect Seymour to keep nagging away at Key and National over Super.

Surely the escalating cost of Super is worth a flag scale national discussion and referendum.

Dunne states reality on decriminalising cannabis – no chance

In response to Family’s desperate quest for cannabis oil Peter Dunne was engaged in a Twitter exchange. In this he made it clear there has been no chance of successive New Zealand governments decriminalising cannabis.

In response to

Good to hear
Decriminalisation!
Way to go

May I be very clear: decriminalisation is not on the government’s agenda.

It has been the policy of successive Labour & National led governments & is not about to change.

So any valid reform is a lost cause until a major party supports, eh? Change too difficult from the inside?

It’s more that is a government minister and the Cabinet has a position.

It’s also numbers – 61 votes is a majority in Parliament & Nats, Lab & even Greens oppose legalisation.

This the political reality. Dunne cops a lot of flak for nothing being done to change cannabis law but he has a small minority voice in Government and he has just one vote in Parliament. Dunne isn’t in Cabinet.

National look unlikely to try and do anything on cannabis in the foreseeable future. John Key swung significant support behind marriage equality but he looks unlikely to do anything on cannabis –  he recently stated “I just don’t agree with drugs”.

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out relaxing cannabis laws while campaigning for the Northland by-election.

In response to a question from a voter Mr Key said he did not support decriminalisation of cannabis.

The voter accused Mr Key of wanting to lock people up in jail.

“It’s not so much that, I just don’t agree with drugs,” the Prime Minister said.

So a National Government almost certainly won’t initiate anything.

The only other option is via a Member’s Bill and there are currently none on drugs in the ballot so no party is trying to change cannabis law.

Andrew Little sounds like he has no interest in doing anything. In March Duncan Garner asked:

SHOULD WE LEGALISE CANNABIS? GREENS AND LABOUR SAY LET’S THINK ABOUT IT

Garner: We’ve had this debate this afternoon around the legalisation of cannabis, we’ve got a poll up and man it’s been phenomenal, 86% replied (saying cannabis should be legalised), 2000 votes. We’ve had Kevin Hague on, he says it is actually time for this debate to actually occur given what’s happening in America, around four different states either decriminalise or legalised.

What’s your position on decriminalising cannabis?

Little: Yeah up to now I think we’ve, my personal view is I’ve approached it very cautiously. I mean I, when I was a union lawyer I did a lot of cases of the drug and testing in workplaces and all that sort of stuff.

The studies I did of it, the thing that came out of it for me was that a lot of the cannabis in New Zealand, that’s grown in New Zealand has such a high THC level it’s actually different to cannabis sold in other countries, so that’s an area of danger.

But having said that I’d be keen to have a look and see what the experience has been of States like you know Washington and the other states that have adopted decriminalisation more recently and just see what the experience has been and see whether there is something we can learn from it.

I’d never say no to it but I’d say we’ve got to approach this with considerable caution.

This sounds like Little has no interest in doing anything about cannabis.

Garner: Right, considerable caution because it could be politically not viable, it might make you unpopular? Or because you believe in it’s worth having a debate?

Little: Oh no given that my honeymoon’s over, I’m used to the unpopularity…

Garner: Yes it is over, you don’t want a long honeymoon mate, you don’t want a long honeymoon…

Little: I’m more concerned about the public health and safety aspects of it and given the conditions here. That’s the issue for me.

I think since i was up at the Auckland University quad yesterday, part of the ? week, I talked to some of the young folks there and that issue came up.

Unprompted just raised that issue with me. So there’s clearly a discussion going on out there though and you know we need to be part of it.

Garner: When you discuss these things obviously you get those headlines out, ‘Little supports decriminalisation’, I mean is that a fair headline or not?

Little: (pause) no that would be an unfair headline at the moment because I, I’m not, I don’t, I know there is an issue there. I’d like to look more closely at it. I’d like to  look at the experience of the American states that have decriminalised.

But I draw on my own personal experience and the research I’ve done when I was a union lawyer, to say there is an issue here that is not as easy just to say let’s decriminalise, let’s open it up.

So my approach is proceed with caution.

Garner: Proceed with caution but at least start to look at what’s happening in America.

Little: Have a look, and lets have the debate. Ah and lets get some facts, lets shine some facts on the issue. Let’s not just react emotionally but lets have the debate, get the facts and proceed with caution.

What debate? No party is promoting any debate, let alone any action.

Greens have supposedly been the pro-cannabis party but have been lukewarm on it. Leading into last year’s election Russel Norman:

“Decriminalisation has obviously been a long-standing Green Party policy, there has been movement on it internationally as well as domestically and it will be on the table in any post-election negotiation, like our other policies.”

Greens never got to negotiate policies after the election.

Speaking after her State of the Nation speech at Waitangi Park in Wellington, co-leader Metiria Turei said they wanted to see the law changed.

“I would like to progress a vast amount of our policy, actually and that would be one that would be very interesting,” she said.

Turei said they believed a drug-free lifestyle was the healthiest, but did not believe adults should be convicted of a crime if they smoked cannabis.

Decriminalising the drug was “the wisest policy,” however it would not be a bottom-line issue for the party in any post-election discussions.

Not a “bottom line issue”. Not an issue the Greens campaigned on. Not an issue the Greens have done anything visible about since. Not a visible issue in the just completed Green leadership contest. Not a visible issue in the Green conference this weekend.

James Shaw seems to have avoided the issue.

I’ve searched Parliament’s Hansard for this term (all MPs) and there’s barely a mention of cannabis or marijuana and no interest has been expressed regarding considering any law changes.

It came up during the Northland by-election – Winston Peters backtracks on marijuana referendum:

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to hold a referendum on legalising marijuana while campaigning for the Northland byelection but rapidly backtracked on it straight afterwards.

Mr Peters was holding a street meeting in Kaikohe when a man asked whether he would legalise marijuana.

Mr Peters replied: “you want to legalise marijuana? I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a referendum and if the answer is yes, the answer is yes. I’ll give you a vote on the referendum and if the answer is no, it’s no. That fair enough? Wonderful.”

However, later he said he had no intention of putting forward a referendum and his comments were the shorthand required on a campaign trail. “I didn’t say ‘I’m going to give you the referendum. I said our policy is a referendum and if you want one, you’ve got to go and get one.”

So NZ First aren’t interested either.

That’s the reality of reality on decriminalising cannabis in New Zealand – politicians aren’t seriously interested in doing anything about it.

Back bench benefits

It’s sometimes said that a big back bench can spell trouble for Governments – idle hands make trouble sort of thing. To an extent there’s probably some truth to that, if those who are idle are ambitious and impatient, or have been demoted and believe they deserve a better status again.

But there can be benefits in a back bench as well, especially when the back benchers are electorate MPs. It can help keep the party caucus in touch with the electorates. Cabinet ministers have very busy lives and can get isolated in their bubbles. Their bank bench colleagues can help maintain a link with electorate reality.

There’s been talk of a possible bank bench ‘revolt’ in National this week over proposed changes to workplace health and safety legislation.

Tracey Watkins comments in John Key’s rural New Zealand problem.

Amid the various claims circulating this week was the suggestion that Collins and Williamson were leading a back bench revolt over the legislation, which imposes stiff rules and punitive penalties for health and safety breaches. Collins’ arch denials left more than enough room to read between the lines.

Key’s announcement after Tuesday’s caucus that the health and safety legislation was on hold for another two months revealed the extent of disquiet in National’s ranks.

The row has been rumbling along quietly for months, but the bill’s imminent return to Parliament brought matters to a head.

“Leading a back bench revolt”, “disquiet in National’s ranks”, “the row has been rumbling along” etc. Is National about to fly apart?

Or is this a sign of healthy democracy in action?

From their positions on the back bench, Collins and Williamson are closer to the ear of the back bench MPs, who are wearing the backlash from their constituents and local board members.

For recent MPs, this will be a new new experience. For older ones, they will remember the last time they had to wear the backlash for a Cabinet decision  – that was over class sizes.

Cabinet was forced to execute a hasty u-turn.

For any MP whose future rests on the goodwill of voters, any backlash is a cause for panic.

The fear of the back benches is that measures like the health and safety bill will open up a new anti-PC or “political correctness” front in the battle for hearts and minds in rural New Zealand.

This is dripping with negative terms. Perhaps there are some negatives, or potential negatives.

But could also be a positive sign of healthy debate, of back benchers communicating with their constituents and giving useful their caucus colleagues.

And a caucus of fifty nine is always going to have differences of opinion and differences in desired approaches and outcomes.

National are lucky to have over half of their caucus in closer touch with their constituents, able to relay the wishes and concerns of their electorates into the core of the Government.

If there is strong concern and disagreement over the health and safety proposals then they should spend more time investigating, getting feedback and considering.

Good legislation should achieve a good balance. On contentious issues that can take time.

And the benefit of a big back bench is being able to listen to electorates and respond to what the people want.

This also shows the benefit of having electorate MPs – it ensures a wider and closer connection with a range of voters.

Parties with all list MPs – like the Greens – can become blind in their own bubbles, only having to communicate with people with similar interests and leanings to their own.

There’s benefits in having back bench electorate MPs that are more significant than giving journalists reasons to overstate the implications of debate and thrashing out a decent balance in any policies..

Williamson speaks, doesn’t deny ACT attempt

ACT leader David Seymour dumped Maurice Williamson into an embarrassing situation with his claims that Williamson approached ACT with a view to jumping from the National ship.

Seymour also implied that Williamson lied about it to John Key. See Williamson flayed, National frayed.

Yesterday Williamson responded, very briefly. Stuff reported:

National Party MP Maurice Williamson has broken his silence on claims he sought to desert National, saying

“I don’t want to join the ACT Party”.

It was the only comment he would make on the issue.

That statement fails to address the allegations.

Of course he won’t want to join the ACT Party – they say they have rejected his advances, and they have dumped on him big time.

But Williamson doesn’t deny approaching ACT, nor sounding them out. He doesn’t deny attempting to join ACT.

In politics this leaves the obvious assumption that Seymour’s claims were reasonably accurate. And that’s certainly how it’s being seen going by this discussion between Paul Henry and Patrick Gower.

Henry: Maurice Williamson, let’s just finish up talking about him. Is he in the naughty corner? What, what is, is John Key going to be forced to do something now it appears Maurice lied to John.

Gower: Ah, I think John Key will do nothing about Maurice, um, John Key will just ignore Maurice, and that’s probably how this whole thing started altogether. Maurice ah and Don Brash are essentially in the netherworld of failed right wing politicians.

Um they tried to get something going on with the ACT Party. ACT didn’t want a bar of it. In fact David Seymour went straight to the ninth floor and narked on them, went straight in, knocked on the door of the principle’s office, said John Key “are you going to do it”.

I don’t think anything will happen to Maurice. He’ll be left um to suffer quietly which he obviously doesn’t like doing.

Um but big ups to David Seymour. He took on um these old boys, these crazy old uncles of the right wing.

Went public and said “we don’t want a bar of you, no longer ACT might not be, ACT might be on political life support, we don’t need a couple of crazy old uncles um hogging hogging that life support, um I’m going to do it on my own”.

Big ups to David Seymour.

So Seymour and ACT get a bit of a boost from this.

It shouldn’t do National any harm, unless a now grumpier old back bencher causes trouble before being squeezed out of his electorate and out of Parliament by the end of this term – if Williamson waits around that long. National have proven to be quite effective at clearing out dead wood.

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