Little Little success in Australia

Andrew Little’s and Phil Goff’s trip to Australia to lobby for New Zealand ex-pats and detainees seems to have had little success. This isn’t surprising.

NZ Herald reports: Australia won’t budge on deportations

Australia won’t budge on deportations and shows little appetite to examine support for Kiwi expats – but Labour senses softer ground among politicians from both major parties.

Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Phil Goff have completed a day of lobbying in Canberra after meeting Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

They received little encouragement from Mr Dutton, except for a promise to look at any individual deportation cases raised by Labour.

“There wasn’t a eureka moment where he said, ‘Oh no, I’ve got it all wrong, but it was useful to have the opportunity to put the case and put the arguments,” said Mr Little, who will tomorrow visit Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

The visit of New Zealand’s Opposition leader went largely under the Canberra radar. He entered Parliament in the early morning heat past a pack of local reporters with no question asked, and there was only minor interest from Australian media outlets.

However, Mr Little said that there was a broad acceptance from Liberal and Labor members of two committees he presented to that there was some unfairness in the way the rules were applied.

This may have been a reality check for Little in one of his first dabbles in international lobbying, and Australia will be relatively easy.

Leaders of opposition parties can do little at home so will achieve little abroad except perhaps build relationships and experience.

Why did Little take Goff with him? Goff is off next year if he wins the Auckland mayoralty.

Little may have felt he needed experience alongside him on his Australian foray, but surely Labour should be looking at building expertise for the future.

‘The Message’ is clear

Russell Brown has posted The Message at Public Address, giving an account of sorts of Phil Goff’s launch of his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

They message he is trying to convey is quite clear. His intro:

The announcement of Phil Goff’s intention to seek the Auckland mayoralty yesterday was able and organised. Various important constituencies were represented in the room, the messaging was precise and the first person to be greeted by name in the candidate’s speech was the present deputy mayor, Penny Hulse. So she’s on board.


Goff was at pains to emphasise that yesterday was not a campaign launch, merely the announcement of his candidacy. Policy will come with the launch proper, next year. He has already drawn some clear lines: finance the CRL more quickly, prevent Port expansion into the harbour, don’t privatise Watercare. But he will need to take good advice on what he chooses to say around the complexities of the Unitary Plan, the Auckland Plan and the Long Term Plan before having to actually state policy on them. Populism gets very perilous in that area, especially when you’re promising “protection for areas of high heritage value.”

But yesterday’s launch was competent and confident. After he spoke, Goff circulated easily for photographs while the press waited at the door of the room. His meeting and greeting completed, he turned, strode to the door and delivered his lines. He clearly does know how this is done.

Is Russell Goff’s media adviser? Did he arrange the media event? Whether he did or not his message is quite clear.

I can’t see any dosclosure so he must just be a interested observer, albeit quite keen on Goff’s bid for the mayoralty.


Bright, Thomas, Hay, Berry, Goff standing for mayor

It’s no surprise at all that Phil Goff has annnouned he will be standing for mayor of Auckland.

He has already been getting a lot of media attention – and free publicity. The media machine tends to strongly favour those who are already well known to them. Some potential candidates they simply ignore, ruling out any chance they will be noticed by an apathetic voting public.

Others who have announced their intention to stand include:

  • Stephen Berry (former ACT candidate)
  • Mark Thomas (Orakei Local Board member)
  • Penny Bright (protester and blog self promoter)
  • David Hay (former Green Party member, council employee)

Don’t expect the media to rate them a chance or give them an equal chance.

In a launch promotion coverage at Stuff:

At the moment Goff is by far the front runner in a race that has only seen lesser candidates declare their hand.

Regardless of their potential capabilities the labeled ‘lesser cndidates’ will get significantly lesser media attention and get lesser votes. They are efectively ruled out as soon as they begin.

Goff may make a good mayor, and the media will ensure he has the best possible chance of winning.

Plus he has the advantage of remaining an MP so he can effectively do a lot of his preliminary campaigning while being paid to be a Member of Parliament.

For most people to stand any chance they have to quit any paid job and commit to campaigning at their own expense.

Nats proxy to contest Auckland mayoralty?

The Auckland local body elections have moved a step closer to being merged with national politics with the formation of Auckland Future to help the centre right contest the elections next year. It is closely linked with the National Party.

They will support a mayoral candidate “if, and when, a winnable candidate emerges”.

It seems almost certain that Phil Goff will stand for the mayoralty, giving his bid a strong Labour connection.

Bernard Orsman reports in NZ Herald – Nats back new Auckland ticket.

 Party figures drive centre-right platform created out of dissatisfaction with state of Super City

National Party figures are behind a new ticket, Auckland Future, being set up to wrestle for control of the Super City at next year’s local body elections.

Sources have linked National Party president Peter Goodfellow, former presidents Sue Wood and Michelle Boag, and Auckland-based ministers Nikki Kaye and Paul Goldsmith to the plan.

It is understood the National Party is prepared to contribute resources and fundraising skills to the ticket while keeping the National brand away from the Super City arena.

Prime Minister John Key was one of about 80 people at a fundraising event for the new ticket on October 14 at the Geyser Building in Parnell.

The ticket is the latest attempt by the centre-right to win control of the council after two poor campaigns and the failure of the Communities & Residents ticket, formerly Citizens & Ratepayers (C&R), to gain traction.

C&R president Karen Sherry, when asked if C&R could merge with Auckland Future, said “that’s a discussion that needs to be had” but added “sometimes competition can be healthy”.

Ms Kaye, MP for Auckland Central, said she wanted to ensure a strong voice around reducing rates and bureaucracy.

“There has to be change. It [the council] has been pretty fragmented and I’m very interested for a new entity to emerge.”

Campaign and fundraising experience should give this a major boost and the people involved and endorsing it give this an unmistakable National tinge. It looks like the Auckland mayoralty in particular will look closely related to national politics.

Joe Davis, a Browns Bay business consultant and National Party volunteer chairing Auckland Future, said the organisation was incorporated in September.

He said there had been a lot of conversation across the centre-right, including the National Party, about wanting to see Auckland run well, and with a vision.

“There is real widespread dissatisfaction with the current state of Auckland,” Mr Davis said.

“The city is too big and too important to have councillors voting in an ad hoc manner on key issues.”

Mr Davis said Auckland Future would field a ticket of councillors with a strong policy platform so voters would know what they were voting for.

He said the ticket did not have any candidates lined up and would embrace a mayoral candidate “if, and when, a winnable candidate emerges”.

So they aren’t saying specifically that they will support a mayoral candidate but one could presume that’s a major aim.

The Auckland mayor is seen as one of the most important elected officials in the country. The Prime Minister isn’t even elected as such, their party is elected with it’s leader becoming Prime Minister.

There may be good arguments both for and against national politics mixing more with local politics.

One benefit could be that the centre right in Auckland come up with a serious contender for the mayoralty. Last election Len Brown didn’t have much credible competition.

Phil Goff may stick with his proposal to remain an MP until/unless elected mayor. Campaigning for local body elections while a sitting MP is a major merge of national/local politics on it’s own, with the taxpayer funding his campaign time.

Goff off Little message

Phil Goff has spoken about the Trans Pacific Partnership, an Agreement he should be proud of as he played significant role in getting the talks under way.

While he seems to have spoken careful he has a different slant on it to his leader Andrew Little.

Stuff reported:

Labour unlikely to breach TPPA over concerns – Phil Goff

Senior Labour MP Phil Goff says it is unlikely the party would have to breach parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPPA) free trade deal if it came to power, with “more than one way to skin the cat” regarding its concerns.

Goff is ‘senior’ in length time as an MP and an ex-leader, but has slipped to seventeenth in Labour’s pecking order.

Goff, a former Labour leader and the trade minister who signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, told TV3’s Paul Henry he had encouraged his party colleagues to consider the costs of opting out of the deal, which was “not the monster” that opponents were afraid of.

He denied Labour was “stuck in the dark ages” regarding the TPPA, and said the party had not yet decided whether it would support or oppose the deal.

“I think the party is doing the right thing at the moment – until you read the fine print, you don’t sign the document.

“We’ve had a briefing from Tim Groser and that was really helpful, but there are things that he couldn’t answer…and we’ve got to see the detail of it.”

So a bit of defend and wait support for Labour’s line.

Goff say he “maybe [knew] a little bit more about the trade than some of the others” in Labour due to his involvement in initial negotiations, and said he had asked his colleagues to consider the costs of not being in the TPPA.

“This is a deal that’s going to get bigger: It’s 12 countries now, but I can conceive that China will come in, South Korea will come in.

So he is fairly pro the TPPA.

“Let’s look it at it honestly: This is not the gold standard that I set out to achieve – dairy is frankly third rate and that was disappointing – but nor is it the monster that TPPA opponents were afraid of.”

While Goff said Little was “quite right” to want to see the fine print before making a decision, he said it was unlikely a Labour-led government would need to breach aspects of the deal it disagreed with, and could instead discuss their concerns with the other parties.

“I don’t think we’ll have to, I think there’s more than one way to skin the cat of the deal.”

Not surprisingly he is not keen on Little’s ‘flaunt it and see what happens’ approach.

It’s hard to guess what Labour’s position will end up being on the TPPA.

Judith Collins “focused on getting back into cabinet”

In a column in the weekend’s Sunday Star Times (shared with Phil Goff) Judith Collins wrote about the Auckland mayoralty. She bagged current mayor Len Brown, saying he “has not delivered for the people of wider Auckland”:

Judith Collins: Why I’m saying No to Mr Yes.

He’s had a lifetime of saying “yes” when occasionally he should have said, “no”.  He’s a nice, pleasant person who, unfortunately, has not delivered for the people of wider Auckland.

I knew  Brown was doomed when he stated that he was the second-most important person in New Zealand after the prime minister.  Really?  When Auckland’s mayor thinks his job is to have a foreign relations policy, you know it’s all over.  Where were his advisers? Who was saying, “Earth to Len?”

And so we come now to who will replace him.


I give points to Mark Thomas who doesn’t have a huge profile – which really is needed to win.  At least  Thomas has had the courage to say he’s standing.  At least  he has had the courage not to pretend and insult the voters by playing coy.

She writes Thomas off and then targets Goff without naming him.

When I first stood for election during that terrible time (for National) of 2002, I was a lawyer.  I worked in a large law firm and I was chair of the Casino Control Authority.  As soon as I was selected for the then-marginal seat of Clevedon, I stood aside from both those positions.  I took unpaid leave from my full-time work.  That meant I really had skin in the game.

In those dark days of campaigning, when the winter election was called early, and our poll numbers dropped from over 30 per cent to just 20.7 per cent on election day, I can tell you that I had everything to win and nothing to lose.

Goff seems to be serious about standing for mayor but has indicated he won’t stand down as an MP unless he wins. So he would be campaigning for a local body election while being paid to be a Member of Parliament. That’s a cushy lark.

What will happen for this mayoral election?  Will  Brown stand? Possibly.  Will Phil Goff stand? Yes.  Will Thomas stand?  Yes.  Will others stand? Undoubtedly.  Does it matter? Yes, it does.

Auckland needs a mayor who is able to work with the Government. The mayor must be able to work with the Government to get the assistance with infrastructure that a growing Auckland needs.  The mayor should be focused on solutions for infrastructure, not on world leadership in the foreign affairs stakes.

Another swipe at Goff.

Auckland’s mayoralty needs, guts, determination, intelligence and presence. Who’s up for it?

Goff responded:

Aucklanders don’t need a lecture about what our city needs.

They deal every day with traffic congestion, unaffordable housing and the problems created when infrastructure investment fails to keep pace with population growth. It’s easy to be negative, to bicker and to be partisan.

But what people want is leadership. They want the elimination of waste, more efficiency and for the city and Government to get on with building an effective transport system. They want the benefits that they were promised under a Super City.

Auckland needs strong advocacy to make the Government understand that if the city does well, New Zealand as a whole will prosper.

Leadership is about presence, determination, integrity and commitment.  It’s also about having the skills to bring our community together and to work with Government so that we can realise our vision for a better Auckland.

It sounds like he’s campaigning already. It’s widely understood that Goff is standing and he doesn’t even give any token denials now.

But Collins’ comments provoked some speculation about her ambitions.

The Herald followed up on this and reports: No plans for run at Auckland mayor, says Judith Collins

National MP Judith Collins says she has no plans to stand for the Auckland mayoralty, saying her focus is getting back into cabinet.

Today, Ms Collins told the Herald the column “signalled her disappointment with the current mayor (Len Brown) and the fact as an Aucklander I feel very strongly we do need to have a good mayor to replace him.

“It is not a signal from me. I have always been focused on getting back into cabinet,” said Ms Collins.

She makes her ambitions fairly clear (for a politician).

Was she just stirring Goff up, knowing he had a commitment to respond?

Collins/Slater power play or just a fundraiser?

It looks like Judith Collins and Cameron Slater are making a power play. Or two independent coincidental power plays.

Collins has been quietly trying to rebuild her political career after being demoted as a Minister leading into last year’s election, in no small part due to her friendly relationship with Slater.

In the meantime Slater has been increasingly critical of John Key’s leadership with what has seemed like daily attacks and sometimes multiple attacks a day in post at Whale Oil.

Collins has had a weekly column alongside Phil Goff. Until now she has written about general topics. But yesterday: Judith Collins: Centre voters just the core, the action is on the fringes:

Elections are never won or lost in the centre. Yes, the vast number of voters are in the centre but they won’t bother to change their vote (much less get out to vote) unless they actually have something to vote for. Mobilising the centre to move to the left or to the right, is what wins elections. If you want to stay in power, then the centre is what keeps you there.

Politicians of all stripes need to be fearless, creative, interested, questioning and most of all listening to the electorate. Polling goes to show the centre doesn’t really say much and therein lies the danger of the echo chamber. But the edges of the electorate are always talking.

Winning elections is about engaging people and actually presenting an alternative. Galvanising the centre to be interested enough to vote will not happen simply by prescribing more of the same, albeit with a different coloured tie.

Goff responded:

Judith’s column this week is the opening shot in her campaign to succeed John Key as National’s leader.

It’s a not-so-subtle attack on the well-known fact that John Key is not driven by strong values but rather the results of weekly polling and focus groups.

Judith is inviting you to contrast Key’s soft positions with her post-demotion outspokenness on issues.

You can’t blame her for that or for her antagonism towards Key. After all, he sacked her and is refusing to put her back into Cabinet.

Goff could be perceptive. Or he could be mischievous. Or both.

Matthew Hooton responded to a comment on this at The Standard:

“when it came to Phil Goff’s reply, Collins probably got a lot more than she expected”

I reckon she got exactly what she expected (and hoped for) from Goff.

Today at Politik it looks like Collins is busy getting her message out there in JUDITH COLLINS SAYS IT’S TIME FOR POLITICIANS TO STAND FOR SOMETHING.

She set out a summary of her views in the Sunday Star Times and one Labour politician did have something to say.

Phil Goff said the column sounded like the start of her campaign to become National leader.

But in a lengthy interview with POLITIK she chose her words carefully and avoided any head on challenge to the National Party leadership who have shunned her since she resigned from Cabinet over her connections with Whaleoil.

Nevertheless her message is clear.

“It’s better to make a difference than to sit in Parliament and occupy a seat,” she said.

“You are actually elected to do something.

“If you don’t do something then get out of the way and let someone else do it.”

She worries that the general public all round the world is sick and tired of politicians who say just what they think the electorate wants them to say.

“Actually ultimately you are never going to get anything done unless you change the status quo and you can’t do that from a position of fear or a position of let’s not rock the boat.”

She is suspicious of focus groups.

“The problem with focus groups is that you are asking them a question; you are defining what they can talk about and what they are interested in and sometimes I think you have just got to stand for something.”

She says she doesn’t use focus groups but relies on knocking on doors and what people tell her in her electorate office.

“In my electorate there are probably quite a lot of people who aren’t necessarily National voters but what they like is if you are straight up with them.”

It’s often claimed that John Key is guided by focus groups

Face to face contact is important but it can be self selecting – only people who want to talk will talk – and they can adjust what they say to suit their audience.

There will be many who will scrutinise the comments here and in the Sunday Star Times column for signs of dissidence, for some hint that as Mr Goff claimed, she has begun her campaign for the party leadership.

But what she is saying is more general than that.

It looks more like the beginning of what  may be a long debate defining what the post-Key National Party might look like.

Meanwhile, coincidence or not, Slater has been continuing his campaign. Yesterday his anti-Key posts continued: Losing our Religion – A letter from a reader…to John Key

The letter may or may not have been from ‘a reader’, it can be hard to tell on Whale Oil what’s genuine and what’s part of the campaigning and what’s paid for commentary. Slater added his own comments:

I’m not sure he is listening…but his minions are reading. Maybe the message will get through, either that or we will soon see a series of posts on cat fancier, arts, travel and lifestyle blogger, David Farrar’s blog about the stunning achievements of a John Key led government in a bid to counter “negative” posts here.

I am no sycophant and will tell things as I see them or as my readers emails.

Things aren’t right within National, they have allowed a cult of personality to develop and those never end well.

More posts generally criticise National.

He has followed that up today with specific references to the Collins publicity, first on her Stuff column in Judith Collins on Corbyn, and winning the centre.

This is the quiet changing of religion that I speak of…people turning off and not bothering because politics has become shades of brown and as appetising as cardboar

People get tired of the same old view of politicians and eventually they seek a change, any change, so long as it is not who we have now. They certainly don’t subscribe to TINA…that is the false hope of incumbents.

TINA is There is No Alternative, seen as one reason for Key’s sustained popularity, but Slater has been trying to establish a meme that there is an alternative – from within National. I wonder who he thinks that should be. Note that for some time he has strongly criticised Bill English,  Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett.

Then later today he posted on the Politik interview with Collins – Collins expands her discussion on the centre. In agreeing with Collins he said:

She’s dead right about that and MMP has created a situation where seat warmers are the politicians of the day. If you have a look at Helen Clark’s legacy it is nothing but banal social policy. John Key’s legacy is shaping up to be not much better, with the prospect of the flag being retained that particular dream is in tatters.


Straight shooters have always done well in New Zealand politics, and it is a shame that John Key has changed from that perception of a straight shooter to a perception that is much less than that.


What is funny though is the left wing getting all excited that Judith Collins will attempt to do what they have failed thus far to achieve…topple John Key. They should be careful what they wish for, because I doubt such an event would go well for them and their union pals.

So it is easy to see this as a two pronged attack on Key by Collins and Slater.

What sort of support would Collins have in the National Caucus? I don’t know.

But one this is for certain – she has a whale sized millstone hanging around her neck.

Eighteen months ago a campaign like this from Slater may have been seen as a serious threat. But his political credibility has plummeted.

I think a Slater orchestrated leadership bid is unlikely to cause anything but trouble for Collins. Sure it may damage National, and Slater has been trying to do that since he fell out of favour. But His alternative is unlikely to be looked on favourably.

Something not covered in Collins’ column yesterday nor in her Politik interview was whether she was being invoiced by Slater for his advice and his Whale Oil campaigning. This could be as more a fundraiser for him than a serious leadership bid.

Anyone as knowledgeable about politics as Slater claims to be (he was praising his predictive abilities last week, see the poor me/clever me post LOSING YOUR RELIGION) would know that  Slater+anything is currently seen as toxic.

And the Slater attacks on National don’t even seem overly popular at Whale Oil. From his Saturday diss Hooton: ‘Thanks John, time to move along now’ he explains his TINA theories:

John Key is still popular because people still believe in the false premise of TINA (There Is No Alternative).

Logic suggests that TINA is not valid. If John Key were to be mowed down by a bus driver on Lambton Quay on Monday morning it is certain that there would indeed be a replacement. When he does finally step down or is knifed, or gets voted out there will be an alternative. There is always an alternative…whether or not an alternative is apparent depends entirely on the vision of the person stating TINA.

The belief that TINA is real…suggests these people think John Key is immortal and can reign forever…neither are true…politically or in reality. There is always an alternative.

But if you have a look at the upticks on the comments in LOSING YOUR RELIGION it seems clear his audience isn’t captivated or convinced by Slater’s campaign.

Note: I’ve done a few edits and additions to this in the half hour after posting.

What now for Andrew Little?

Andrew Little started his leadership of Labour last year obviously a bit rough around the edges but showing promise as leading a new approach by Labour, hopefully on the way to recovery after a disastrous election – actually after three poor election results.

But something seems to have happened to Little during the summer break. He appears to have been sucked into the party machine and spat out as a strategy leading puppet.

This looks similar to the destruction of David Shearer as a new style leader.

Like Shearer Little looks uncomfortable in his role.

The Chinese surname strategy has gone down badly on the left. There’s been comments like ‘if Little keeps digging it won’t be long before he comes out in China and he can check out the speculators for himself”.

It’s difficult to know if Little is having trouble fitting into the role of leading, or if he’s struggling with a party strategist imposed role.

Matthew Hooton claims the Chinese surname thing is a carefully planned strategy orchestrated by Matt McCarten, including Little’s reaction at yesterday’s press stand-up – see Little buckles under pressure as he and Twyford keep digging.

Whatever – Little looks like he is struggling with his role as Labour’s leader.

Following Phil Goff, David Shearer and David Cunliffe.

There’s more than a hint that Labour’s problem may not be several individuals. The party seems fundamentally flawed.

Can Little break the cycle and forge and actually lead the party? The signs aren’t looking great.

Brown eased out, Goff lining up

It looks like Len Brown is being deserted by his own team.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown loses backing of top campaign team

Advisers want Goff/Hulse to run for mayor.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has lost the backing of key members of his campaign team, who are turning their attention to other left-leaning candidates at next year’s local body elections.

The Herald has learned of a meeting last month where key campaign and mayoral advisers delivered the “blunt message” to Mr Brown that he has no chance of winning and should step down.

At least two of Mr Brown’s inner circle have held talks with Mt Roskill MP and former Labour leader Phil Goff about standing for the mayoralty.

There is also support for deputy mayor Penny Hulse, who has expressed interest but said she would never stand against Mr Brown.

It is understood Mr Brown was shaken by the actions of his campaign team and mayoral staff, some of whom are longstanding friends. He has not responded to their request.

All Brown could do was several over the top laughs when interviewed for 3 News – Len Brown tight-lipped on campaign team’s support.– while the currently have the wrong video linked they are displaying an uncomplimentary image:

LenBrown3NewsAnd Phil Goff is lining up to take his place – Goff considers Auckland mayoralty bid

Senior Labour politician Phil Goff says he is giving deep and serious consideration to running for the Auckland mayoralty.

The veteran MP for Mt Roskill, who has served for 15 of his 31 years in Parliament as a cabinet minister in portfolios including foreign affairs, defence and housing, said today he had received approaches “from right across the community” to lead the SuperCity but had yet to make up his mind.

“It’s something that I need to give some pretty deep thought to.”

Phil Goff says he can’t say and won’t say if he has had discussions with Len Brown’s team about standing for Mayor… (reads: yes he has)

It was likely Brown would have difficulty getting sufficient support to stand again.

And Goff has been suggested as a mayoral candidate for Auckland for some time. He would probably do well in a campaign and could make a good mayor.

And Labour get to bring someone new in to their caucus which is overdue for renewal.

It could work out well all round (apart from for Brown of course).

Little and Goff contradictions over Iraq

Like just about everyone Andrew Little has trouble taking one consistent stance on Iraq. NZ Herald report on his meeting with Tony Abbott:

Labour leader Andrew Little told Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in their private meeting that Australia’s air strikes against Isis in Iraq make sense because the Iraqis were saying air strikes were making a difference.

So it makes sense to listen to what the Iraqis want regarding air strikes.

But he also told Mr Abbott that the plan for New Zealand and Australia to train Iraqi troops was an exercise in futility because it would be “propping up a corrupt and dysfunctional army”.

But it’s futile to listen to what Iraq wants regarding training their troops.

This sounds like cherry picking points of political convenience. And I wonder what Little’s stance on providing training assistance would be if he were in Government.

And John Key pointed out another contradiction.

Mr Little yesterday said a stable Middle East was in New Zealand’s interests but it was not going to be achieved with 16 trainers and 120 logistics and security personnel for two years. “It’s too small to make a difference.”

Mr Key said yesterday that the same parties who say New Zealand won’t make a difference in Iraq were the same ones that said New Zealand should make a stand against climate change “and when I say we’re only 0.14 per cent of world emissions, they say it doesn’t matter that we’re small”.

That’s the reality of politics – if you deal with many issues it becomes easy to find contradictory approaches (Key won’t be immune from this).

And especially it’s a reality of the Middle East. It’s such a complex situation, where becoming allies with prior enemies isn’t uncommon.

Another contradiction was highlighted by Phil Goff on Q & A yesterday.

Firstly to you, Mr Goff. Labour’s opposition to military action here – what is it in a nutshell?

GOFF: In a nutshell, it’s because this is a high-risk venture that is probably the least effective thing that we could do to stop ISIS. I’m totally opposed to ISIS. I think there are some really effective things that we could do.
We could be providing humanitarian assistance. There are 13 million people in refugee camps in this region, not only from ISIS, but from some of the other regimes that are just as brutal.

What sort of systems are you talking about?

GOFF: Just keeping people alive, giving them healthcare, giving them food, giving them proper accommodation. The $35 million that we are spending on putting troops into Iraq so that we will have 16 trainers – that money could make a real difference in keeping people alive in those refugee camps.

Even humanitarian aid workers are at risk. You’re putting them at risk without any military support. We’ve seen them being beheaded.

GOFF: No, we’ve done this before. We provide our assistance through people on the ground from the region who deliver that aid.

It’s high risk to deploy our troops to help train the Iraqi army, but Goff downplays the risks faced by humanitarian workers, who are targeted as beheadable pawns by ISIS.

Nevertheless, you have lost this battle – hey are going – and your Labour counterparts in Canada, the UK, Australia have all backed their government in this. Why not Labour now? You know it’s going to happen.

GOFF: Because we believe in an independent foreign policy. We make our own judgement. John Key is making his own judgement.

An independent foreign policy doesn’t rule out doing what some other independent countries choose to do.

GOFF: We have made the hard decisions as a Labour government time and time again. I was part of the decision to send people into Afghanistan, to the Solomon Islands, to Timor.

Those were decisions where you had a clearly achievable objective. There was risk. We were prepared to take that risk, but we were going to achieve our objectives and we did. In this case, trying to do something with the Iraqi army with its 50,000 ghost soldiers, it’s ineffectual.

I’m sure those decisions weren’t independent of what other countries were doing. Trying to sort out Afghanistan was seen as futile – and it’s questionable whether ‘clearly achievable objectives’ have been achieved. Any improvements taken time and effort but there are still significant issues there.

There are animosities that have been entrenched and stirred up for millennia in the Middle east. It’s hard to see how anyone can win there.

And it’s difficult for politicians in New Zealand to take non-contradictory stances on what should be done.


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