Norman right abour Middle East risks, wrong about solutions

There’s no doubting Russel Norman’s passion about what he believes in and stands against, and there’s no doubting that he means well. But his response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq prompted some pertinent comments here.

Alan Wilkinson points out that Norman was right and wrong:

The US has already weaned itself off Arab oil. Russel opposes fracking and drilling that would do the same for us and others. The UN is deeply corrupt and speaks only to elites. Nothing in the Middle East will change until the ordinary people want it and that can only happen by working on the ground with them.

Russel is right about the risks and wrong about the opportunities and solutions.

Goldie pointed out an idealitstic disconnect from reality.

So the Greens answer to Daesh is “What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction”

The world is confronting an apocalyptic death cult, and the Green answer is humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction?

And Missy pointed out a major flaw in his humanitarian approach:

So, Russel is against sending Soldiers into the Middle East and into danger, even though this is what they train for and joined up for, but he is willing to send in civilian humanitarian and medical workers with no protection.

Has he even been watching the news, humanitarian workers are one of the main targets of ISIS, and as ISIS has no respect for borders the aid workers would be more at risk than the soldiers.

What would his response be if one of those aid workers was captured and beheaded?

In Norman’s conluding paragraphs he said:

No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is: will sending our troops there help? And the answer is clear: it will not. It will just become part of the recruitment drive for ISIL, and it will put New Zealand lives at risk.

It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that the military training will make a difference.

It’s fair to ask whether New Zealand’s contribution will help. But the answer is not clear. There cannot be any evidence for something that has not yet taken place.

We must also ask if there is another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of people in Iraq and the wider Middle East. What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction—a large-scale, international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL.

As Missy pointed out it’s very difficult to provide humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction in an existing war zone. And it’s been starkly demonstrated that aid workers are at grave risk from ISIL, as are journalists.

RusselNormanIraq

The ISIL situation in the Middle East is quite different to 2003. They have made it clear they are intent on barbaric provocation, and peace promoting do-gooders are a primary target for their depravity because they have been  unprotected.

New Zealand holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That is an opportunity to make a difference and to use our diplomatic weight to try to find a solution not only to the ISIL crisis but the broader crisis across the Middle East.

This is another contradiction from the Norman speech. The UN is proven to be at least as ineffective as prior military engagement so why expect them to suddenly perform diplomatic, political and religious miracles when they have proven  ineffective to date?

If we want to find lasting peace in the Middle East, we need to be a voice of justice. We need to be a voice for human rights and democracy.

This means we have to have the courage of our convictions, to tell the head of the club, the great nation of the United States of America, that it is time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and it is time to support genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East.

That’s boilerplate idealism. It’s all very well supporting genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East, I’m sure most of Palriament and New Zealand would support that.

But waving a Green wand won’t magic ISIL out of existence.

Would Russel be prepared to go and speak peace abnd human rights with ISIL? They aren’t likely to be converted by a well meaning but very naive Parliamentary speech in New Zealand.

Russel Norman’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green):

With today’s announcement, the worst-kept secret in New Zealand is out. John Key and his Government are dragging us by the bootlaces into another US-led Middle East war for an undisclosed amount of time, with a lack of clear goals and exit strategy and with no vote in this Parliament.

Yes, you heard it right: we are going to supposedly defend democracy in the Middle East, but the National Government has just now prevented Parliament from voting on whether New Zealand should go to war. Democracy, it seems, is a military export and is not for domestic consumption.

So why is John Key afraid to put it to a vote of Parliament? Is it because he knows that this Parliament and the people of New Zealand have little appetite for entering another bloody conflict that will only make things worse in the Middle East?

Is it because he knows that it makes no sense to enter another conflict that will simply endanger New Zealanders overseas and here?

Or is it because he knows that he could not get a majority of MPs in this Parliament to support his desire to send our soldiers off to war? The answer, of course, is all of the above—he does not have a mandate, and he knows it. This decision to go to war was, of course, a decision taken not in Wellington, but in Washington.

As John Key revealingly told us, New Zealand is going to war because that is the price we must pay to be a member of the club, and the club that he was referring to was the “Five Eyes” club, headed up by the United States and including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

I guess we always thought that the National Government had abandoned New Zealand’s independent foreign policy, but to hear the Prime Minister state so blandly that the decision to go to war was taken by the club and we simply had to follow suit to stay a member of the club.

I mean, why bother with Parliament when the decision is one for Barack Obama? So I do not address my comments to John Key, who is behaving as if he is the governor of the 51st state. Rather, I address my comments to the head of the club, Barack Obama, who actually made the decision to go to war, and I address my comments to the people of New Zealand in whose name more blood will be shed.

Mr Obama, after half a century of Western military adventures in the Middle East, many, if not most, New Zealanders now know that it has only made things worse. People in the Middle East understand this too.

It is hard to know exactly where in the history to start, but one obvious contender is when in 1953 the United States and the United Kingdom orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected Mosaddegh Government in Iran, because Mosaddegh threatened the flow of cheap oil to the West.

Through our actions in 1953 we told the people of the Middle East that cheap oil was more important to us than democracy. Following the history, notable mention should go to Madeleine Albright.

In 1996 the US Ambassador to the United Nations said in reference to the sanctions against Iraq that were killing half a million children: “We think the price is worth it.” We told the people of the Middle East through our actions that their children’s lives were of no value to us and can be sacrificed to foreign policy goals, and the people of the Middle East remember that.

Perhaps special mention should go to a more recent example, which was when the CIA used a fake vaccination programme in order to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden quite recently. In the process they added to Pakistani suspicion of Western medicine, resulting in a dramatic drop in vaccinations in Pakistan and a rapid take-off in polio cases in Pakistan.

We told the people of Pakistan through our actions that revenge was more important to us that our medical science. Every Western bomb, Mr Obama, that has been dropped on the people of the Middle East over the last half century has only added to the ISIL recruitment queue.

Every time Western Governments have made grand statements about democracy and human rights while supporting some of the most brutal, most anti-democratic regimes in the world, that has only hardened the cynicism of the people of the Middle East about the West and driven them into the waiting arms of the appalling jihadis.

If you do not take my word for it, how about this. In 2004 Donald Rumsfeld, hardly a liberal, the US Secretary of Defense at the time, set up a task force to understand what the driver is for the rise of radicalism and terrorism in the Middle East.

The Defense Science Board reported to Rumsfeld duly in September 2004, and this is what it said: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists.” So that was the Rumsfeld task force conclusion—American intervention was adding to the stature of the radical Islamists, the jihadis, and adding to their support.

Then it went on to say: “It is diminishing support for the United States.” So it is producing the opposite effect of what we claim to be aiming for. Let us face it—killing hundreds of thousands of civilians tends to have that effect. The Rumsfeld task force went on to say: “Muslims do not hate our freedom but rather they hate our policies.

The overwhelming majority voiced their objections to what they see as one side’s support in favour of Israel against Palestinian rights and the longstanding, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably the Governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.” That was the conclusion of Donald Rumsfeld’s own task force.

Western intervention was pushing people into the arms of the radical jihadis, which was the exact opposite of what we claimed we wanted to be doing, and here we are, in this House, about to do it once more. The report went on to say: “When American diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.

In the eyes of Muslims, the occupation by America of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, only to chaos and suffering.”

Therefore the dramatic narrative since 9/11 has, essentially, borne out the entire radical Islamist bill of particulars. American actions have elevated the authority of the jihadi insurgents and tended to ratify their legitimacy amongst Muslims.

So the intervention, according to Donald Rumsfeld’s task force, that we’re proposing to do today is adding to the legitimacy of the jihadis amongst Muslims, doing the exact opposite of what we would like to be doing. The US defence force basically went on to predict the rise of the Islamic State.

No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to ISIL. The question is: will sending our troops there help? And the answer is clear: it will not. It will just become part of the recruitment drive for ISIL, and it will put New Zealand lives at risk.

It is also clear that there is not a shred of evidence that the military training will make a difference.

We must also ask if there is another way we can alleviate the suffering and misery of people in Iraq and the wider Middle East. What they want from us is support for humanitarian aid and civil reconstruction—a large-scale, international diplomatic effort to stop the flow of arms and cash to ISIL.

Did the New Zealand Government even raise this question in the discussion with the Saudi Government, given that a lot of the ISIL money comes from Saudi Arabia?

New Zealand holds a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That is an opportunity to make a difference and to use our diplomatic weight to try to find a solution not only to the ISIL crisis but the broader crisis across the Middle East.

Instead, we have another foreign intervention in Iraq, just like George Bush’s in 2003—another coalition of the willing, those who are willing to put their heads in the sand and their lives at risk. When it comes to Western military interventions in Iraq, New Zealand and the world has been there. We have done that. It did not work. It was a mess.

If we want to find lasting peace in the Middle East, we need to be a voice of justice. We need to be a voice for human rights and democracy.

This means we have to have the courage of our convictions, to tell the head of the club, the great nation of the United States of America, that it is time to wean ourselves off cheap oil and it is time to support genuine peace, democracy, and human rights in the Middle East. Thank you.

Greens versus political and Intelligence realities

Tracey Watkins writes about the realities of Intelligence and security and how the Greens keep themselves on the outside of the pragmatic political club.

In Greens must learn sometimes national interest comes first she talks of Metiria Turei’s ‘ignorance’

Like her Green colleagues, Turei is deliberately ignorant of the rules of “the club” and would have it no other way.

Her path into politics was through the radical fringes, rather than the old boys’ network.

She is, in other words, the last person Labour and National want sitting across from them on a secretive body like the intelligence and security committee as they embark on a sensitive review of the intelligence agencies.

She would raise hackles. She would oppose. She would demand root and branch reform.

That’s the Green way. They haven’t worked out how to move from fringe players to practical inflkuences in major issues.

In contrast, any differences between Labour and National on intelligence and national security matters are superficial at best.

Prime Minister John Key’s statement that Labour and National will be the natural parties of government “for as far as the eye can see” was all that needed to be said on the reasons why Turei was excluded as an Opposition nominee for the committee.

The implied subtext was that the Greens can afford to be blindly naive about the methods employed by the state in the protection of its citizens. Labour and National can’t.

It’s the difference between parties that have had and will have the responsibility to lead governments, versus a fringe party that has grown to a potentially influential size but still has a fringe protest mentality.

That system was MMP, the system under which former radical Marxist student politicians and parties of the Right-wing fringe can be elected to Parliament and challenge the status quo, question the established order and be a thorn in the side of the mainstream parties.

“Former radical Marxist student politicians’ could refer to Turei or Norman.

Parties like the Greens, NZ First, ACT and the Maori Party – and before them the Alliance – have all filled that role over the years.

They can be pig-headed in pursuit of their own ideological agenda, even when it seems they are wilfully out of touch with mainstream New Zealand.

They often incur the wrath of voters as a result – no-one likes the spectacle of the tail wagging the dog.

Somethimg Greens struggle with and Internet-Mana failed to understand.

But despite all that, MMP endures. Confronted with the choice, voters still prefer MMP and the baggage that comes with it over the alternative first-past-the-post system, which would effectively deliver untrammelled power to the winning party.

Turei’s presence on the security and intelligence committee would be an annoyance to Key and Little in equal measures.

But it is also the price of MMP.

Her voice – and those of ACT’s David Seymour, NZ First’s Winston Peters and the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell – are the elected curb on absolute power.

The quid pro quo for the Greens is that there is a price of admission to “the club”. And that may be biting the bullet on the reality that on occasion the national interest really does override party politicking.

If Greens want to have a significant input into important issues they have to learn that a positive pragmatic approach achieves more than being anti everything.

Greens are committed to their own club which will probably exclude them from any bullet biting.

There’s some hope for the Greens though, Kevin Hague understands and practices co-operative pragmatic politics.

Little’s Green snub may benefit intelligence review

Fran O’Sullivan: Little relegates Greens to sidelines

Norman is now claiming the two old parties have colluded to entrench the enormous powers of the Prime Minister and his spy agencies behind a “facade of pretend accountability” and that a “duopoly of illegal” spying will be maintained without any independent oversight.

The counter-factual to Norman’s hyperbole is that his own independent oversight at the committee level clearly hadn’t stopped what he complains about.

Why do Greens think that Turei would stop more than Norman who doesn’t appear to have achieved much?

If “a “duopoly of illegal” spying will be maintained then Norman hasn’t been very effective. Of course his rhetoric is also debatable.

So, he’s feeling a little political heat right now and is having to field claims he has been “cavalier” and “sexist” to boot by bypassing the opportunity to inject Turei into the slot on the committee which was held by Green.

Neither Little’s decision, nor Key’s, has been driven by the “old boys’ club” syndrome.

What the pair have done is formed a “grown-ups club” to deal with the critically sensitive issue of overseeing the major review of New Zealand’s intelligence services.

Replacing someone who has seemed to oppose all surveillance and security with someone else who share’s that opposition may not be very helpful to properly review intelligence services.

Greens can keep opposing everything from outside the committee.

Andrew Little’s Green snub may benefit the intelligence review by providing more positive input.

Who will replace Russel Norman?

Of course no one knows yet who will be Russel Norman’s replacement as Green co-leader in May, but speculation has begun.

Andrea Vance sums up the possibilities:

5. Anyway, who’s going to be the new Greens co-leader?

Party rules mean it has to be a fella and the top picks are former health boss Kevin Hague, and newbie James Shaw. A wild-card from outside Parliament is a remote possibility. Hague is likeable, sharp and would be a steady hand. Shaw’s list placing was downgraded by the membership, suggesting they are suspicious of the pro-business reformer. He also has foes within the caucus. But he would certainly shake the party from a post-election slump, if there was an appetite for change.

Kevin Hague is currently ranked 3 in the Green pecking order. He is widely respected as an intelligent and practical MP, willing to work with anyone with common interests. He must be one of the leading contenders, but we’ll have to see whether he wants to put himself into the leader’s limelight.

James Shaw has been touted as a potential leader since before he became an MP through last year’s election (at 12 on the list). It may be too soon for him, and he may have trouble getting enough support from across the Green membership. And of course he may or may not want to put himself forward at this stage.

Hague could step up and be seen on an equal-ish footing with co-leader Metiria Turei. Shaw would struggle not to be overshadowed and there could be distinct philosphical clashes with Turei being strongly pro Government doing everything while Shaw is much more business friendly.

There is no other obvious contender within the Green Caucus. The other male MPs are Gareth Hughes, Kennedy Graham, David Clendon and Steffan Browning.

A wildcard precedent

Vance mentions that ‘a wild-card from outside Parliament is a remote possibility’. There’s a precedent for this as that’s how Norman became leader.

In the 2002 election Norman stood unsuccessfully in Rimutaka, ranked seventeenth on the Green list.

In 2005 he didn’t stand in an electorate but was ranked tenth on the Green list. Greens ended up with six MPs, but there were several changes during the term.

Just after the election on 6 November 2005 Rod Donald died. His place was taken by the next on the list, Nándor Tánczos.

On 3 June 2006 Norman was elected Green co-leader from outside Parliament, beating beating Tanczos, David Clendon and former MP Mike Ward.

After Tánczos resigned he was replaced on 26 June 2008 by Norman – this was after the two ahead of Norman on the list, Ward and Catherine Delahunty, stood aside.

While it may be possible for Greens to appoint a leader who is not currently on the list that seems extremely unlikely. It also seems unlikely they would go outside the current MPs.

So that makes Hague and Shaw the most likely contenders, although other current MPs might fancy their chances (Clendon contested the leadership when Norman won).

The loser leaves precedent

Another Green precedent is for unsuccessful leadership contenders to leave Parliament. Tánczos resigned after losing to Norman in 2006

And Sue Bradford resigned after losing to Metiria Turei in 2009, ‘citing her disappointment at the loss and wish to take new directions’ (Wikipedia).

But that doesn’t mean a losing leadership contender would leave this time, especially if it’s Shaw as he has just become an MP.

If Russel Norman resigned from Parliament

This is a hypothetical because Russel Norman has only resigned as Green co-leader.

But if Norman resigned from Parliament the next off the party list would be Marama Davidson. If she replaced Norman that would upset their gender balance.

Unless Davidson chose to stand aside that may simply end up with more female MPs forn the rest of the term, 8 female to 6 male. I can’t find anything in their candiate selection rules or theirn constitution that stipulates anything different.

The closest related rule is in Candidate Selection Processes document:

5.5 General Provision regarding Withdrawal

5.5.1 If a person withdraws from the list at any stage, each candidate ranked below that person shall move up one ranking place.

So that would break their normal male/female alternating sequence if someone wirthdrew from the list prior to the election.

A further hypothetical – if there were an equal number of male and female MPs, but due to a male candidate withdrawal the next two on the list were female, and two male MPs resigned, that would result in, on current numbers, five male MPs to nine female MPs.

That would be only 37% male MPs and 63% female, outside their list selection  rule of 60% maximum of any gender::

5.2 Application of Balance Criteria

5.2.1 The balance criteria for the list ranking process are as follows:

(i) Maori – a minimum of 10% of candidates shall be of Maori descent;

(ii) Gender – a maximum of 60% of candidates shall be male; a maximum of 60% of candidates shall be female;

(iii) Region – a minimum of 40% of candidates shall be from the North Island; a minimum of 20% of candidates shall be from the South Island;

(iv) Age – a minimum of 10% of candidates shall be under 35;

But rules can’t be expected to cover every unexpected circumstance.

Russel Norman

Russel Norman has surprised just about everyone with his announcement that he’ll step down as Green co-leader.

But it’s not a shock. Norman was looking weary with politics threough last year and the disappointing Green election result seemed to knowck the stuffing out of him.

When Norman took over the male leader role after Rod Donald’s death and then Metiria Turei replaced the retired Jeannette Fitzsimon I thought the Green Party wouold struggle to maintain their support. But not only did the Greens survive, they doubled their support.

Norman has to take much credit for this. Amongst other things he widened the Greens from being dominated by a environmental and social agenda to include an economic focus.

The environmental shift may have helped lift Green support but it also probably contributed to them hitting a support ceiling, failing to improve on their 2011 result in last year’s election.

This is despite Labour weakening further.

The challenge for Greens now is to find a new co-leader, and then find a way of not losing support if Labour recovers as looks likely under Andrew Little.

Norman may have looked far left to some but he was a more measured and moderate face compoared to Turei.

Leading a party is a very tough job with extreme media exposure at times. And it must be very frustrating for the Greens to buiold support but still fail to play a part in governing the country.

So Norman has succeeded admirably in ways, but failed at the primary goal. This hasn’t been helped by Labour’s hopelessness as Greens couldn’t govern without Labour,

I’m not a great supporter of Norman’s political ideology and leanings but I think he deserves a lot of respect for a doing a hard job well.

He will be hard for the Greens to replace.

“The Greens will have their worry beads out”

Russel Norman stepping down as co-leader poses a new challenge for the Greens, especially if Metiria Turei becomes more dominant as she has leas broad appeal.

And according to Patrick Gower the Greens have another worry from the latest 3 News poll:

Gower said the latest polls would shock a couple of parties.

“The Greens will have their worry beads out.”

Results will be tonight on 3 News. The polling will presumably have been done before Norman announced he will be stepping down.

The new Green co-leader won’t be chosen until May. That leaves a co-vacuum until then, as Norman is likely to leave more of the leader’s duties to Turei.

Leadership transition is always an uncertain time for a party, and a long lead-in until the new leader takes over won’t help.

Norman and Little versus Key on income inequality

In the last clash of the leaders of the year in Question Time both Russel Norman and Andrew Little quizzed John Key on the OECD report on income inequality.

Norman was first.

[Sitting date: 10 December 2014. Volume:702;Page:1. Text is subject to correction.]

1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with the OECD that “when income inequality rises, economic growth falls”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No, it is not that simple, because there are a number of factors that contribute to economic growth.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Prime Minister saying that the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria, got it wrong when he said yesterday that “addressing high and growing inequality is critical to promote strong and sustained growth”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I think that that helps. That is one of the reasons why the Government is proud of its record, as defined by the OECD in a table that it put out last night. It showed that between 2007 and 2011, income inequality has actually narrowed under this Government. The great tragedy is that it also put out a report last night that showed that between 1985 and 2005, when a Labour Government was in office for a reasonable period of time, income inequality got worse. Shame on Labour—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Why does the Prime Minister continue to defend a failed right-wing ideology—trickle-down economics, which the OECD has now rejected—when this economic ideology has fuelled the biggest rise in inequality amongst OECD countries and has knocked 10 percentage points off New

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is not right. All I can say is that under a National-led Government, income inequality has actually narrowed, as defined by the OECD, between 2007 and 2011. Interestingly enough, if the member is quoting the OECD as the oracle of all good information when it comes to growth and issues of inequality, maybe he would like to follow this comment from the OECD. It said in 2010 in its report: “A growth-orientated tax reform would improve the design of tax regimes by broadening the base and lowering the tax rates of New Zealand.”

Dr Russel Norman : With regard to tax rates, does the Prime Minister believe that when he cut taxes for the top 10 percent of income earners in the middle of the global financial crisis, in 2010, it reduced inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As Treasury noted at the time and as has proven to be correct, actually, the changes to the tax system that were made by the National-led Government in 2010 were distributionally neutral. Actually, as time has gone on, it has been proven that higher-income taxpayers have paid more as a result of those tax changes. That is because the Government changed the rules around depreciation of rental properties, the bulk of which are owned by better-off New Zealanders, and it is because even though there was an increase in GST, a large amount of nominal GST is, of course, paid by higher-income taxpayers. They were very good tax changes, and that is why New Zealanders voted for them in an overwhelming way and why they rejected the Green Party policies, and delivered what was—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Dr Russel Norman : Will he now revisit his policy of keeping benefits low as “an incentive to work” in light of the OECD finding that the resulting inequality is bad for people and bad for the economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government. I am proud of that record, as confirmed by the OECD last night in its report. Secondly, the Government is not keeping benefits low. In fact, this is a Government that has legislated to ensure that there are increases in benefits in line with the CPI. The most important thing we can do for beneficiaries—where possible for the bulk of them; clearly not all of them—is to find them work. That is why a strong economy that delivers job opportunities and lifts people out of the welfare trap into work is one of the most beneficial things we can do for low-income families in New Zealand.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he accept the finding of the OECD that the increase in inequality in New Zealand, one of the largest increases in the developed world, resulted in a 10 percent reduction in the size of the New Zealand economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I do not accept all elements of the report, but I do say this. It was a report that took place on statistical data between 1985 and 2005. In the period between 1999 and 2005, if my memory serves me correctly, the then Labour Government did that with support in various forms from the Green Party. So I say to Russel Norman that, yes, he should apologise to New Zealanders—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

David Seymour : Would the Prime Minister agree that what the report really found was that growth is driven by the quality of investment in human capital across all income levels; if so, could he share any initiatives that this Government is taking to improve the quality of investment in human capital across lower-income New Zealanders?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, I would, and I would say that the OECD actually made a very interesting point when it said that redistribution policies that are poorly targeted and do not focus on the most effective tools can lead to a waste of resources and general inefficiencies. One of the ways I know to do that when it comes to human capital—

Hon Member : What about charter schools?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : —is to make sure they get access to a world-class education. That was the point I was actually going to come to. I myself, with the member, visited Vanguard Military School and saw the great young New Zealanders who are coming out into employment. I must say how proud I was to be part of a Government that is championing those partnership schools that are making a difference to those young New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman : Why can the Prime Minister not see this OECD report as an opportunity to move away from failed trickle-down economics towards a form of economic policy that is both good for people and good for the economy, and has a win-win solution for poor children and for the broader economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If the member wants to talk about failed policies, he should read the Green Party manifesto, as it was so utterly rejected by New Zealanders. I remember that member parading before the cameras a couple of days before the election, telling New Zealanders that the Green Party would be polling a massive number—basically, throwing the Labour Party overboard because the Greens did not want to be part of it, and in the end, they polled 10-odd percent. It was a terrible result. Bad policies are the Green Party’s policies. This Government is delivering for New Zealanders.

The clash of ideologies did little more than give Key a chance to defend and promote his Government.

Little was next.

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he agree with yesterday’s OECD report that “focusing exclusively on growth and assuming that its benefits will automatically trickle down to the different segments of the population may undermine growth in the long run”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): With regard to New Zealand, under this Government that is a hypothetical question. That is because the Government is providing billions and billions of dollars of targeted income and welfare support to the most vulnerable New Zealanders every year. So it is simply incorrect to characterise our economic approach as trickle-down. I would also point out to the member that the data covered the period from 1985 to 2005. I became Prime Minister in 2008. I know he wants to blame me for everything, and he will for the next 3 years, but it is a little bit difficult to blame me for something when I was not even Prime Minister.

Andrew Little : In view of the figures in the report relying on data to 2011, and in light of his previous answer, what specifically does he think was wrong with the OECD’s analysis when it found that economic growth is undermined by inequality?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There are many, many things in the report, but what the report last night showed is that there was a growing income inequality in a period that started with a Labour Government and ended with a Labour Government. That is called a failure of Labour’s policies. Since we have had a National-led Government income inequality is narrowing, and that is because this Government is providing enormous support to those most in need. One great example of that is that under this Government the support that is given to households earning under $60,000 a year—that is, just under half of all households are expected to pay no net income tax at all. The members opposite do not like it, but I will tell you what we do not like—the failure, between that 1985 to 2005 period, of a Labour-led Government.

Andrew Little : Does he accept Statistics New Zealand’s finding that incomes for the top fifth in the year to June 2014—after the date for the OECD report—grew by 14.7 percent, while incomes for the bottom fifth grew by just 2.9 percent, thereby increasing inequality in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The last bit is the assumption of the member and it is simply incorrect.

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I am sorry, but it is simply incorrect. The first point may be correct, but if my memory serves me correctly, and the member is talking about the data series I have seen in the past, that is because it includes returns on investments and other things, and as the member will—

Hon Member : When was it you got your memory back again?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : That is right—that is right. The member will know that between 2008 and some period, I think, in 2011 or 2012, there was a decrease each year because those returns were negative.

Andrew Little : Does he accept the finding of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that loan-to-value ratio restrictions have led to home purchases by speculators leaping as high as 45 percent, while the number of first-home buyers has fallen, all of which is making inequality in New Zealand worse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I do not accept that as being correct. I will remind the member that it was his party that actually supported loan-to-value ratios in the early days, but that is another issue. Here is the point: loan-to-value ratios were part of the tool box deployed by the Reserve Bank governor. Without that, interest rates would have gone up by at least half a basis point for all New Zealanders, and that would have had a very significant impact on lower-income New Zealanders. Actually, what we know is that economic growth is being delivered at high levels by this Government, and that follows the economic disaster that we inherited from the previous Labour Government.

Andrew Little : Does taking away the rights of low-paid workers to better pay, secure work, and even tea breaks make them economically stronger or weaker compared with their employers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We are not doing that. What we are doing is providing flexibility in the labour markets. Interestingly enough, last week Mr Little was trying to tell New Zealanders that somehow small businesses are now working New Zealanders, and that they would have his support. They would have his support so much that they would not be allowed a 90-day probationary period, they would not be allowed flexibility in their labour markets, and they would have to pay a much higher starting-out wage or a much higher minimum wage. I know why the member is supporting his policies; it is because his caucus did not vote for him, but the unions did.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That answer will not help the order of the House.

Andrew Little : Given the OECD’s finding that increased inequality has made the economy 15.5 percent worse off since 1990, how does he plan to reduce inequality in order to grow the economy faster?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Income inequality is narrowing under a National-led Government, as supported by the OECD. The members cannot have it both ways. They cannot say one OECD report is right and another one is wrong. The only point I would make is simply that the member needs to go away and get his facts right. Under the report where income inequality was widening was under a Labour-led Government. I know it is a disgrace, but that is why they were hammered at the polls—it is because they were a disgrace. [Interruption]

Andrew Little : Save your applause for a decent performance. Why is he so unambitious that he does not want to boost future economic growth for all New Zealanders? Is it because he is still trapped in a 1980s time warp?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am very ambitious for New Zealand and for the growth rate of New Zealand. We are delivering on that growth rate for New Zealand, which is why it was nearly 4 percent this year. I am so ambitious that if I put my leadership up for a vote, I would expect more than four people to vote for me. [Interruption]

Little was gained by either attacks.

That was the last of the leaders’ clashes for the year,

More on Norman versus Trans Tasman and Fairfax

Russel Norman had a hissy at Fairfax yesterday for publishing Trans Tasman MP ratings, especially of Cath Delahunty. See Russel Norman versus Trans Tasman.

David Farrar also comments on this in Norman attacking the media:

So we have a party leader publicly berating a journalist because the journalist wrote a story on the ratings. Really? Isn’t this what a certain other party leader used to do in the 1970s? As for the smearing of Trans-Tasman as “far right” (a term used in Europe to describe neo-nazis), that’s idiotic. Certainly it is a business publication and like the NBR has an editorial tone that is pro-business. But it is no more “far right” than Radio NZ is “far left”.

There are lots of ratings different people will have different views on. You would expect a party leader to say he disagrees with the ratings for his MPs. But to smear the newsletter as “far right” and berate a Fairfax journalist for daring to do a story on it is a form of bullying.

Attempted bullying.

Now he is hysterically claiming the newsletter “hates” his MP” because she is so effective, and is instructing the journalist to print his words.

But this isn’t so much about the rankings, but Norman’s behaviour. In the last two weeks we’ve had:

  • Norman lambasting a journalist for writing a story he didn’t like and demanding he print his views on his own MPs
  • Norman smearing a media newsletter as “far right”
  • Norman barging past the PM doing a media stand up and shrieking “Resign” at him
  • Norman using the 2014 post election review conference to effectively blame the SIS for the left losing the 2011 election

I should’t give free advice, but I think such behaviour is a big turn off. It’s an ugly look. He could have made a case for the Trans-Tasman ratings being too harsh on some of his MPs, without doing it as an attack on the media.

The pressure of a hard three years followed by a frustrating election campaign are taking a toll.

The next two lowest ranked Greens were men.

Steffan Browning 2.5
David Clendon 3.0 (equal with Jan Logie)

That seems reasonably gender balanced – not that gender should figure in performance ratings.

Norman didn’t complain about both him and Kevin Hague being rated higher than Metiria Turei.

And it’s not just Norman.

Danyl expanded on the Green attack at Dim Post.

Stuff has a cut’npaste story up on the TransTasman newsletter’s annual rankings of MPs, a yearly ritual in which a bunch of elderly right-wing journalists pour praise on their favorite right-wing politicians and scorn on their most despised left-wing enemies. Whatever.

But what struck me reading through the rankings is that there seemed like a big difference in scores between male and female MPs irrespective of any left-wing/right wing bias. Even female National MPs I rated quite highly were ranked lower than totally undistinguished male Nats. And it’s even worse for Maori, who all seem arbitrarily low regardless of party, or how well they perform.

The data breaks down like this: Average score for a Male Pakeha MP in the Transtasman ranking is 5.4. Males overall have an average ranking of 5.1. Pakeha overall average 5.1. Maori are way lower than Pakeha with average rankings of 4.6. Female MPs are way lower with an average ranking of 4.4. If you compile the rankings for Labour and the Greens, the men get an average ranking of 5.2, but the women are dragging them down with an average ranking of 4.4.

Here’s a list of the TransTasman writers. I’m informed that the sole contributors are the authors listed at the bottom of the report. You might not be shocked to learn that they are all white men. But what that means is that TransTasman’s inequality in their rankings and staggering bias towards Pakeha males has nothing to do with identity politics. See, identity politics is just something the left does to privilege women or Maori.

It’s a form of political correctness gone mad in which people value gender or ethnicity over actual merit, but when white guys get privileged, or when we coincidentally overwhelmingly favor other members of our race and gender that’s definitely nothing to do with identity politics. Or racism or misogyny. It’s always just because we all deserve it. Shame on you for doubting the analysis of the impartial, objective white guys at TransTasman!

He sounds as frustrated and bitter as Norman. As do some of the ranks at Dim-Post.

They can’t just disagree and offer their own ratings. Instead they attack the messengers.

If Fairfax took Norman’s advise and didn’t publish anything that could be seen as politically leaning then Green PR would be at least as verboten as Trans Tasman.

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