Threat of Dunne ‘rethink’ if Peters wins should help National

NZ Herald seems to be trying to make up news but highligthing something they seem to have posited to Peter Dunne may end up helping National in the Northland by-election.

Isaac Davidson has an article with a misleading headline – Peter Dunne wants rethink if Winston Peters wins Northland – and a misleading opening paragraph.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says he would look at revisiting his post-election concessions from the National Party if New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wins the Northland byelection.

That sounds like Dunne has come forward with the idea of a rethink. And:

Mr Dunne pointed to Resource Management reforms as one area which he could have greater influence over if National lost a seat. He said the reforms, which he has expressed concerns about, would “take on quite a different hue” if National relied on his vote to pass.

Mr Dunne noted that his party signed a confidence and supply agreement when National had an outright majority. National has since lost a seat in the final election count and could lose another in Northland.

But then:

Asked whether he would seek greater concessions from National if it lost another seat, he said: “That’s something I’d want to consider. I don’t have an immediate answer at this point.”

So he was asked a question about it, said he would consider it but doesn’t have any answer ‘at this point’.

But by raising the risk to National of a Peters win in Northland should help National.

It makes the by-election a high stakes contest. Most by-elections change little apart from one MP. But Northland could significantly change the balance of power in Government.

This will ensure National is determined to do well. And it should help encourage more National voters to vote (by-elections typically have low turnouts).

And Peters’ decision to stand makes for an interesting twist.

If Peters were to win Northland it would hand potentially much more power to arch-rival Dunne.

It’s possible a Peters win would see National turn to NZ First for support, but that seems very unlikely. It would seem far easier to renegotiate a few policy positions with Dunne than get strung along by Peters in lengthy negotiations and then through the next two and a half years.

And it looks far simpler to motivate National voters to hold onto Northland.

Peter Dunne’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future):

The activities of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over the last year have brought a new meaning to that longstanding phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”, because we have seen new levels of barbarism, new levels of violence, and a pervasive stretch of campaign unlike any we have seen in the past.

The issue is not whether as humanitarians we should do anything; the issue is what we can do constructively to both assist those who are struggling against that yoke of oppression but also to change the circumstances that gave rise to it in the first place.

So this is not a debate about whether to Iraq or not Iraq; it is about what we can do that will be effective. And when one looks at the history of engagement in the Middle East, over a long period of time—far longer than the 50-odd years referred to earlier—the one constant has been that external intervention has invariably produced failure.

Whether it be from the splitting up of the boundaries under the so-called Balfour Declaration earlier in the 20th century or whether it be the overthrow of the Mosaddeq regime in the 1950s or the attempts by the West after the various Middle East wars to try and reimpose a sense of order, the constant has been failure, and the consequence has been an engrained and increasing sense of disillusionment and bitterness that gives rise to the next form of expression we might regard as extremist and unacceptable, and which we recognise today as ISIL.

We can go on doing what we have done. We can go on repeating the mistakes of the past. We might feel good that we are making a contribution, but we will not be fundamentally changing anything.

The issue the House should be debating is what the most effective form of response is.

We are an isolated democratic country. We in this country believe in the institutions of our State, our courts, our independent legislatures, and our judiciary to deliver certain rights and freedoms to New Zealanders.

Although the form will differ from country to country, those basic tenets remain in all countries, so to deliver basic freedoms and rights and opportunities to the people of Iraq and beyond comes through ensuring that the institutions of their State are capable of living up to the expectations that their public have of them to be able to provide quality health and education services and to be able to provide law and order and good civilisation.

And how can we contribute to that? The historical record makes clear that external intervention over a long period of time has not made a positive contribution in that respect.

When this House debated the intrusion into Kuwait in 1990-91—and I recall the House being recalled early in 1991 for a special debate on that matter—the same points were made. Was New Zealand’s limited military involvement going to make any great difference without any efforts to satisfy some of the more fundamental problems of the region? The answer then was no.

When we debated the intrusion into Iraq that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the same questions were raised. They were raised in a peripheral way about Afghanistan, and they are being raised again today.

New Zealand has a proud reputation, earned over many years, and for many reasons the point we were elected to the UN Security Council was for being a beacon of humanitarianism and common sense in the international arena.

People remember the role we played in the Rwandan crisis, for instance, where a similar regime of horrific slaughter was in place, where the world felt powerless to cope with the forces that were at play in Rwanda, but where New Zealand was at the forefront of a sensible outcome for which we are still lauded today.

We should be using our role on the Security Council to, first of all, insist that any action that takes place against ISIL is UN mandated—and this is not—and, second, focus on the areas where the most positive construction can be made: humanitarian aid ensuring that the children who are being maimed, slaughtered, and violated routinely are protected; aid that ensures that the various States of the region, Iraq in particular, have the opportunity and the chance to rebuild their institutions of State to deliver fair and democratic outcomes for the people they serve; and aid that ensures that the experience that countries like us that have a longstanding parliamentary democracy have in issues of good and fair governance is able to be brought to bear to assist the people of that region.

The concern that I have about the deployment of now nearly 150 New Zealand personnel into the area is the escalation effect. They are going as trainers and advisers.

President Kennedy sent a few trainers and advisers into Viet Nam in 1961. That culminated in the deaths and injury of up to 220,000 American troops over the next 15 years and 220-odd New Zealanders similarly suffered in that conflict.

The point is that it is very difficult to control these sorts of incursions to protect just the goal that we had to start with. Inevitably, people in military uniforms will draw attention—terrorists do not distinguish between whether they are advisers or other personnel, and conflicts occur.

We would expect in those situations for people to defend themselves, and suddenly the situation has escalated far beyond what we originally intended. The tragedy then becomes the loss of innocent blood, of young New Zealanders in that situation. It is very easy for these things to move very quickly.

A limited engagement in Afghanistan that this House agreed to many years ago saw us ending up spending more time in that country than our combined input into World Wars I and II. There is no reason to think that the challenges that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses will be dealt with quickly, expediently, and that it will be all over in a couple of years.

We are committing New Zealand personnel for what will be a long-term engagement. We have to be prepared to face the consequences of that and the risks to those soldiers. We need to equip them well—and we have had issues in the past about how well equipped our forces have been in such situations—and we need to be prepared for the long haul.

The question I think many New Zealanders are asking is whether we actually know what the game plan is and how the exit strategy is to be developed. We do not want to see what, in effect, becomes an open-ended commitment made. There are, as I have said, many other avenues that we can be pursuing.

I believe that as a country that espouses the democratic tradition the forefront of what we do ought to be about encouraging other countries in a similar way and ensuring that they can benefit from the institutions of democracy and deliver safe and fair environments to the people that they serve.

I recall a representative of the African National Congress telling a meeting at this Parliament shortly after President Mandela came to power in 1994 that when people accused Mandela of being a terrorist they had it wrong because what Mandela and the African National Congress were about was respect for the institutions of the South African State, but they wanted to control them. They wanted to control the Parliament, they wanted to control the courts; they did not want the white minority to continue in the apartheid regime.

It is the same principle here.

Most people value democratic institutions. Most people value representative government and the opportunity to participate. They do not like having things imposed upon them. What our challenge is in this instance is to ensure that the people of Iraq can take control of their own destiny; the people of Iraq have the confidence in the authorities to deal with these violent, despicable people in ISIL; and the people of Iraq know that that is wrong, unacceptable, and unbelievably bad behaviour, and they take charge of responding to it.

They do not react well to the people of the rest of the world telling them what they have to do. I think New Zealand is making a sad mistake. But I just want to say one other very quick thing: those troops who go do go with this Parliament’s blessing for their safety and for the challenges that they face. I hope that they come back safely in due course.

Dunne on the futility of military action against ISIL

Peter Dunne has blogged on his views on the futility of getting involved militarily against ISIL in the Middle East. His main objection is that Western history in the Middle Easy has been notable for it’s failures and not it’s successes.

Dunne’s experienced views on this are an important additiion to discussion we should be having on getting more involved in a part of the world that is extremely difficult to deal with from the outside, and extremely complicated and difficult to deal with on the inside.

I have one major reservation due to the apparent aim of ISIL to take their fight to ther world, so whether we like it or not what they manage to do is likely to impact on us in some way.

So why will it be any different this time? The Middle East’s a bloody mess that has generally only been made messier by Western meddling.

Not preventing the spread and growth in power of ISIL may have serious repercussions, but so might getting into the middle east of a shit fight.

Dunne Speaks

19 February 2015

Most New Zealanders will have never heard of the Nairn brothers. But from 1923 until the late 1950s, these two New Zealanders operated the famous Nairn Bus to Baghdad. At the time, it was “the” way to make the 1,040 kilometres journey over often dusty desert roads from Beirut to Baghdad. While the Nairns have long since passed on, it still seems to be a case of all roads lead to Baghdad, as far is New Zealand is concerned.

Within the week, New Zealand will decide on a military deployment to Iraq to combat the rise of ISIL. Of course, no formal decision has been made as yet, but all the signs are pretty obvious, and when I overhear young soldiers at Auckland Airport talking about how exciting their role in Iraq will be, I know our forces are as good as on their way. And forget the niceties – regardless of whether they are just training advisers, or whether they are under the protection of the Iraqi armed forces, they are in fact military personnel and will thus be subject to all the perils that implies. And remember too, that the innocuous term “trainer/adviser” seldom stops there. Kennedy sent a few hundred advisers to help South Vietnam in the early 1960s – by the time the Vietnam War ended in (in American  defeat) in 1975, over 210,000 young Americans and more than 220 young New Zealanders had been killed or wounded.

I have been a keen student of Middle Eastern politics since the early 1970s. The intervening years have seen massive upheaval and changes in the region, the fall of old regimes and dynasties and the rise of new ones. But no matter how the lines on maps have been drawn, or which governments have been backed by the West, and which have not, the one constant has been the failure of Western policy. Mainly, this has been the fault of the United States, although the British and the French must also take their share of culpability.

In their heyday, the Nairns had to battle all manner of political and other obstacles, from the inhospitably hot weather to the marauding intentions of hostile Bedouin tribesmen (who were even then subject to RAF bombing and strafing in Iraq). Nearly 90 years later, not a lot has changed, except that the brutality and precision intensity of weaponry has increased dramatically. ISIL and its ambition to establish a new Caliphate is hardly new either. The Rashidun Caliphate was established almost 1,400 years ago. The Ottoman Caliphate lasted from the sacking of Constantinople in 1453 until 1924. The Crusades of the 11thand 12th centuries were Christian Europe’s first ultimately unsuccessful response to the rise of Islam. ISIL, whatever one thinks of its depraved brutality, is the modern expression of those traditions. History suggests it is not going to be bombed or blasted away.

I oppose New Zealand becoming militarily involved in the ISIL campaign for one simple reason – it will not work. In doing so, I am not condoning ISIL’s atrocities or barbarism in any way. But external intervention as now proposed will be ultimately unsuccessful and much innocent blood on all sides will be spilled in the process. Whether or not ISIL’s desire to establish the new Caliphate succeeds depends far less on the exercise of external military might than it does on the support of the people in the region to let it happen.

So any intervention we feel obliged to make should be at the diplomatic and humanitarian aid ends of the spectrum, working with and alongside local people to strengthen civil society. And if the international system is to count for anything (and given our role on the UN Security Council should we not be doing our best to ensure it does?) any such action should be under a UN Mandate.

We can hardly expect others to play by the international rules, if we are not prepared to do so ourselves.

Dunne demands transparency on Security review

Peter Dunne supported a review of our security legislation in his opening speech for the year in Parliament yesterday, asking for public engagement, openness and transparency.

This is not a political issue; this is a New Zealand issue. We are talking about New Zealand’s security interest—New Zealand as a nation—our domestic security and our international security.

It is not a game of political one-upmanship, but a game of ensuring that those who operate in that very peculiar world are accountable, are transparent, and have very clear lines of operation that Parliament has ordained for them.

Full draft transcript:

There is one other area that the Prime Minister touched on that is also extremely important, and I think we can actually start to make some progress.

There is to be a review this year of our security legislation. I think that is good. It is proper. But it needs to be conducted in a transparent and open way, and there are two steps I think that need to be taken sooner rather than later.

The review has to be established by 30 June this year. I think the form of the review needs to be made public well before its establishment, and I think the draft terms of reference need to be published and socialised around this House in the first instance and more broadly before they are adopted.

This is not a political issue; this is a New Zealand issue. We are talking about New Zealand’s security interest—New Zealand as a nation—our domestic security and our international security.

It is not a game of political one-upmanship, but a game of ensuring that those who operate in that very peculiar world are accountable, are transparent, and have very clear lines of operation that Parliament has ordained for them.

Last year the then-director of the Government Communications Security Bureau gave an extraordinary speech where he spelled out the objectives of his agency as he saw them. One of them was advising the Government on military strategy.

That is not the role of an intelligence agency.

It might be the belief of those who like wearing trench coats and walking around in the shadows and what they think is the role of an agency, but it is not the role of a responsible agency today, particularly against the backdrop of the revelations that people like Edward Snowden have made and various other whistleblowers around the world have shown about the way in which these organisations operate.

No one is actually saying you do not need them. Everyone seems to be saying they need a more open and accountable environment.

Some of the Greens and fringe left activists may disagree that no one is actually saying you do not need them.

The review this year provides that opportunity, and I sincerely hope that the Government takes the chance to ensure that what arises is a robust, credible set of organisations that can meet both the test of public scrutiny and the test of time, because increasingly as tensions grow, the challenges that they will face in terms of providing credible, independent intelligence to the Government of the day will also grow.

If there is any doubt about the competence of that, then I think we are in a very sad way.

Some things must remain secret and be done in secret, but it is essential that the New Zealand public has confidence in our security legislation and in our security services.

Dunne warns Government on RMA reform

In his opening speech for the year in Parliament yesterday Peter Dunne sounded warnings to the Government about meddling with important parts of the Resource Management Act.

His speech started in general agreement with John Key’s proposals but signalled strong concerns about parts of some plans.

I say to the Minister, he should look at every editorial writer in New Zealand, he should look at everyone who has expressed impartial concern on this—not the developers and the commercial interests—but people who have expressed an impartial concern, and they have all urged him to move with caution.

I say to the Government if it chooses to do what the Prime Minister himself said last year—proceed with moderate and pragmatic changes—it could well attain significant support in this House, but if it continues with the attitude that it has shown to date on this issue, it will get it through at the very best by one vote.

That would be a travesty and that would be a mark of inconsistency, because all of the case law built up over the last 20-odd years of the Resource Management Act would go out the window.

Draft transcript:

I am pleased to support a large proportion of what is contained in the Prime Minister’s statement, and generally to work with my colleagues in National, Act, and the Māori Party towards its attainment.

But there is one area that my predecessor outlined that I could not disagree with more, and that is his argument about changes to the Resource Management Act.

The suggestion that that is a silver bullet to our housing crisis is risible, fatuous, and unbalanced, and those that proclaim it deserve that title as well. I think before people put the Resource Management Act into its grave, they ought to think about what it replaced.

No one wants to go back to the days of 54 different pieces of planning law. Of the Town and Country Planning Act, which was derided up and down the country as cumbersome, ineffectual, inconsistent, and chaotic.

There is a majority in this house—I believe a clear majority—for making sure that the Resource Management Act is fit for purpose in terms of its procedures and practices.

But that can be achieved—and could have been achieved as long ago as 2013 when the National Party first proposed changes—if there had not been the attention at the same time to changing the purpose and principles clauses, particularly clauses 6 and 7 of the Resource Management Act.

There is no need to tamper with those provisions to achieve the efficiencies in the legislation that the vast majority of the members in this house would seek.

I say to the Minister, he should look at every editorial writer in New Zealand, he should look at everyone who has expressed impartial concern on this—not the developers and the commercial interests—but people who have expressed an impartial concern, and they have all urged him to move with caution.

I say to the Government if it chooses to do what the Prime Minister himself said last year—proceed with moderate and pragmatic changes—it could well attain significant support in this House, but if it continues with the attitude that it has shown to date on this issue, it will get it through at the very best by one vote.

That would be a travesty and that would be a mark of inconsistency, because all of the case law built up over the last 20-odd years of the Resource Management Act would go out the window.

The certainty that is being proclaimed for change would be replaced by the uncertainty of having to start all over again. It is a simple nonsense, and yet the Government could resolve the matter fairly quickly were it not prepared to want to have its cake and eat it too.

Until after next month’s Northland by-election National need the support of Dunne or the Maori Party as well as ACT to get a majority.

Dunne and the Maori Party blocked proposed changes to the RMA last term.

RMA reform should also be done with broad support including from Labour.

Dunne attacks Iraq plans and British Foreign Secretary

Peter Dunne launched a strong attack on plans to deploy New Zealand troops in Iraq and slammed the Bristish Foreign Secretary in his opening speech for the year in Parliament yesterday.

Audrey Young reports in NZ’s Iraq mission under attack.

Mr Dunne also launched a stinging attack on comments made in New Zealand last week by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond when he said: “Frankly we’ve got used to New Zealand being there alongside us, alongside the US, the UK, Australia, as part of the family.”

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the training was made at the request of the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

Prime Minister John Key has already made it clear he wants to deploy up to 100 NZDF staff in a training mission with Australia which has 600 people in Iraq.

Mr Dunne, a minister and the leader of United Future, described Mr Hammond as a “patronising figure from abroad loftily telling us we are in the club, we are part of the family and it would be lovely to have you along for the next round of unmitigated slaughter”.

He said the debating chamber had plaques on the wall of other times “the family” had acted together.

“Gallipoli, the mindless slaughter of Australian and New Zealand troops in the pursuit of a British objective, Passchendaele and the Somme, so to come here and say to New Zealanders today ‘we love having you on board, you are part of the family but you’ve still got to queue up at the aliens gate at Heathrow’ is unacceptable in the extreme.”

National need the support of Dunne or the Maori Party as well as ACT to get a majority in Parliament until after next month’s Northland by-election.

For a deployment to Iraq they should be seeking wide Parliamentary support. They may have a battle at home on their hands.

This cartoon was for the Afghanistan invasion but the sentiment could apply to the difficulties in dealing with the whole Middle East.

Smaller RubbleThe whole of Dunne’s comments on the Iraqi deployment (draft transcript):

I want to talk about a couple of other measures that are contained in the Prime Minister’s speech that I think the House deserves to pay some attention to.

There was, in the statement, a reference very late in the day to the appalling situation now developing as a result of the barbarous activities of the Isalmic State of Iraq and the Levant. No one can condone what has been occurring.

No one can say that it is in any way acceptable or meets any reasonable standard of human behaviour. The difficulty comes in what is an effective solution.

When one looks at the Middle East generally, the immediate conclusion to be drawn is that Western intervention over the last century, be it from the time of the Balfour Declaration right through to now, has had one universal outcome: failure, division, and more intense bitterness and rivalry than was in place before it started.

So when we determine, as this country, what our response to that appalling situation should be, we need to be guided by the history.

Maybe Sir Tīpene was right. Pākehā often do not know their history if we seem determined to blunder in and repeat the mistakes of the past. We need to be working alongside responsible Governments in the area, encouraging them first off to seek solutions to their own issues and to seek their own solutions, not have them imposed upon them by us acting in a “we know best” sense from the outside.

It is a difficult balance because we cannot stand by and let barbarism continue, but at the same time we cannot act in a way that is simply going to fuel those fires more strongly for the future.

One of the challenges that New Zealand faces is to draw that responsible line. I must say in this regard that the intervention last week of the British foreign secretary on his visit here was anything but helpful.

This Chamber carries the plaques that remember the consequences of the last time the family acted together: Gallipoli, the mindless slaughter of Australian and New Zealand troops in the pursuit of a British objective, Passchendaele, and the Somme.

So to come here and say to New Zealanders today “We love having you on board. You’re part of the family, but you’ve still got to queue up at the alien gate at Heathrow.” is unacceptable in the extreme.

I would have thought that a well-briefed visiting politician on these issues would understand the sensitivity of New Zealanders.

After all, in the 1980s the more the United States administration of Ronald Reagan told us what our anti-nuclear policy was not to be, the more we embraced the stand that the New Zealand Government was taking. We are like that as a people.

Here is this patronising figure from abroad loftily telling us that we are in the club, we are part of the family, and it would be lovely to have us along for the next round of unmitigated slaughter, and it is simply unacceptable.

New Zealand should draw the line very strongly when it comes to that.

It’s not just the House that should pay attention to that. Are there any journalists other than Audrey Young not obsessed with trumpeting trivia?

Strong Parliamentary speech virtually ignored

Most of the immediate media reactions to the opening speeches for the year in Parliament yesterday seemed to be on the trivial and juvenile.

John Kery called Andrew Little a derogatory name, Little snarked nack  and WInston Peters got attention for a bizarre claim that Key colours his hair (ok, that may be more senile than juvenile).

NZ Herald led the trivia with Politicians return to Parliament armed with new jokes and Peters: ‘John Key dyes his hair’. No wonder the public thinks Parliament is crap.

But amongst the hubris a strong speech raising serious issues was almost ignored. Peter Dunne and his United Future Party didn’t have a good last term but managed to survive.

Yesterday Dunne demonstrated that he can still be one of Parliament’s best speakers.

It’s worth highlighting some of the issues he raised. These will be split across the following posts but here is InTheHouse video of his speech.

RMA reform – same old opposition

Nick Smith says National is reviewing the most contentious parts of it’s last (failed) attempt at RMA reform and stated “National’s “preference” to build support beyond a bare majority” but “made it clear that the party was prepared to do so with just the support of the single MP of the Act Party”.

National pushes on with Resource Management Act reform is a bit contradictory.

After failing to gain the support it needed to pass changes proposed in 2012 during the last term, today National signalled that it could use its stellar election result to proceed – with little change.

Although Environment Minister Nick Smith said it was National’s “preference” to build support beyond a bare majority, the MP for Nelson made it clear that the party was prepared to do so with just the support of the single MP of the Act Party, which has long objected to what it considers to be an anti-development bias in the environmental legislation.

“Our first duty is make changes to the RMA that make the act work better for New Zealand. If we can’t get the support of the Maori Party and the United Future Party to be able to advance the reforms, then we will still be progressing with the support of the ACT Party,” Smith said.

Smith signalled that National was reviewing the most contentious of its proposed reforms of the RMA, covering changes to the act’s principles – a move critics have argued would aid development – but otherwise the tone of today’s speech was consistent with the last term.

“It’s consistent with the direction that was set in 2012, but there’s still a lot of detail in the amendments to deliver the overall package of reform,” Smith said.

He expected “intense discussion” over some of the “hundreds” of amendments to the existing legislation.

Not surprisingly the ‘Opposition” opposes it, for now at least.

Labour leader Andrew Little

…said the changes would do nothing to cut the price of building or increase the supply of affordable homes.

“National has spent six years claiming they will change the RMA to make housing more affordable but have yet to produce any tangible solutions. Nick Smith’s proposals are underwhelming and show the Government is out of ideas.

“It is critical that changes to benefit housing are not used as a smokescreen to undermine the environmental protection standards.”.

NZ First leader Winston Peters…

…said if the government was to curb rising house prices it needed to deal with speculation, immigration and a lack of construction.

“The minister’s planned changes to the RMA to address housing affordability do nothing of the sort, they are just a sop to developers. He is blaming the RMA for a high price of Kiwi homes, the lack of supply and making speculators rich as a red herring to National’s complete failure.”

The Green Party…

…said the changes would not build more homes.

“The Government has the ability to build affordable homes and address the housing crisis now but it is simply not doing it. New Zealand needs a major state home building programme, to meet the need for new homes and drive down high prices,” Green Party RMA spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

But the mayor of the major housing problem area approves.

The reforms would streamline “complex” processes for house-strapped Auckland, Mayor Len Brown says.

Brown said Auckland Council had been working closely with the government to find a solution to Auckland’s housing crises.

“From Auckland Council’s perspective, there is considerable scope to improve the RMA,” he said.

“In particular streamlining the complex processes councils are required to work within, reducing duplication and providing more affordable housing.

“I particularly welcome recognition of the needs of cities and urban areas, including housing and infrastructure, which the current legislation doesn’t cover well.

Wider support will depend on what changes National are prepared to make.

Radio NZ reports Smith’s RMA speech strident, says Dunne - Dunne has appeared to be peeved that so far he has been left out of the loop and doesn’t know if he will support changes or not.

He said he had thought the Government was moving down a more pragmatic path, but he was not so sure.

“I just don’t quite know what the intended strategy is here. This speech just leaves you wondering frankly.”

Mr Dunne said the speech was short on detail, so he was still no closer to knowing whether he could support any changes.

Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell…

…said he still believed the Government was willing to compromise, even though it no longer needed their support.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge yet, these things are by negotiation and I detect certainly a desire to work with us.

The detail and the debate is yet to come so it’s too early to tell how thios reform will be dealt with.

Dunne versus Cunliffe on dealing with immigration issues

Peter Dunne blogged yesterday that immigration is a major part of electorate business for him, and he explains how he deals with it.

Amidst all the drama surrounding David Cunliffe’s recollections or not of his dealing with Donghua Liu, it is worth remembering that one of the most important roles an electorate Member of Parliament has is to advocate on behalf of constituents when they have an issue with the government or one of its agencies. Such advocacy often leads to the mounting of the strongest of cases on behalf of the constituent one feels able to, even if there are times when one’s personal sympathies for the case, or confidence about its outcome are not great. The point is that as that person’s representative one is obliged to ensure their case is at least fairly, properly, and fully considered before a decision is reached upon it.

Matters relating to immigration are amongst the most sensitive of cases MPs deal with for understandable reasons. In my own case, as an electorate MP of nearly 30 years standing, immigration matters have consistently accounted for about two-thirds of the individual cases I have handled. In that time, I have seen many harrowing situations, and written probably thousands of support letters to successive Ministers of Immigration. I have won cases I expected to lose, and lost cases I had expected to win.

However, I have always followed two firm rules for immigration – and actually all constituency – cases, aside from the obvious point of keeping clear and full records. Any letters of advocacy I write on behalf of a constituent have been drafted personally by me, rather than a member of my staff, as I am more likely to remember something I have written myself, rather than just affixed a signature to. Second and more important, I have never accepted a donation or gift in return for pursuing an immigration case. Where there have been occasions – usually after the event – where someone offered to make a donation, I have always referred them directly to the Party Treasurer. So I actually never know whether any of these offers have ever been followed up, which is as it should be.

He then goes on to say that Cunliffe seems to have not worked like this.

I say this not to be sanctimonious, but because it strikes me that David Cunliffe has done neither. I do not think he had full oversight of Mr Liu’s approach to him regarding his immigration status, but I do think he – and his colleagues it would appear – had way too much involvement, more than they are letting on now, in respect of Mr Liu’s financial support. It is that ambiguity and shadiness that is doing the damage now.

Add to that Mr Cunliffe’s strident flaying of Maurice Williamson over his dealings with Donghua Liu and the firestorm of hypocrisy now engulfing him is both obvious and utterly predictable.

Coming so close to an election it is a loss either way for the Labour Party. Change the leader now and Labour is surely doomed – there is no Messiah in the wings to surge through and sweep them to victory like Bob Hake’s takeover in Australia a month before the 1983 election. Keeping the leader simply reinforces the perception of slipperiness and lack of trust. Little wonder then that for some 2017 is now not looking too far away after all.

In fact on RadioNZ this morning Cunliffe implied that his staff would have met the ‘constituent and typed the letter and he just signed it “in good faith”.

It sounds like Cunliffe has been a fairly hands off with some of his MP responsibilities, like he seems to be in his leadership role at times.

Civilian Party and United Future announce campaign deal

The Civilian Party and United Future have announced a joint campaign deal similar to Internet-MANA.

UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne and Civilian founder Ben Uffindell say it is a sensible union as there is more in common between them than between Kim Dotcom and Hone Harawira.

Both of them went to school and university in Christchurch.

“I lead a party and I’m a civilian, that’s exactly the same as Ben” said Dunne.

“We had a problem that people wouldn’t take us seriously, this shows that we can also be sensible” said Uffindell.

The parties had both experienced the difficulty of signing up 500 members, and both were relying substantially on the same donor for their campaign funds, the Electoral Commission.

The deal would combine the complementary age and experience of United Future with the youth and spoof of The Civilian.

The joint party will be called Civilised Future.

There were some obvious differences but Dunne said there were precedents, citing the obvious differences between Dotcom and Harawira.

He also pointed out previous parties with contrasting personalities, like Bill and Ben, and especially McGillicuddy and Serious.

Uffindell was looking forward to joint policy development, combining his fresh ideas with those of a wily old campaigner.

One policy that was likely to have appeal to voters of all ages was Flexi-Icecream. This would allow people to choose their own flavour.

Dunne and Uffindell will be joint party leaders. The rest of the party list will alternate between fishers, shooters and satirists.

They will differentiate themselves from other parties by targeting people who voted last election.

They were confident that Dunne’s experience with worms and Uffindell’s barbs would combine to catch a significant number of votes.

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